New York City is working to create a permanent, streamlined Open Restaurants program. As part of this program, the Department of City Planning and Department of Transportation proposed a zoning text amendment to remove geographic restrictions on where sidewalk cafes can be located within NYC.
To be eligible for a sidewalk café, restaurants need to meet physical criteria -- such as “clear path” requirements, including ensuring that table and chairs are appropriate distances from fire hydrants and neighboring businesses.
The zoning amendment does not change the process for how sidewalk cafes are reviewed by local community boards. But, the areas where they can be considered now expands to all neighborhoods.
This amendment to NYC’s Zoning Resolution complements proposed legislative changes that would cut red tape for restaurant owners. Applications for the sidewalk café program and a new roadway café program would be consolidated under one agency, the Department of Transportation (DOT). Learn more about Permanent Open Restaurants from DOT here.
During the COVID-19 ban on indoor dining, New York City suspended existing outdoor dining regulations, including zoning location rules. This emergency program provides a necessary lifeline for nearly 12,000 restaurants– and allowed New Yorkers to appreciate how streets can be activated by a robust, citywide outdoor dining program.
The zoning amendment makes thousands of restaurants eligible for a sidewalk café. It facilitates expanding the benefits of outdoor dining to all New York City neighborhoods.
The emergency program remains in effect through 2022, allowing transition time to a future Permanent Open Restaurants program.
Help shape the Permanent Open Restaurants program. We want to hear from you: What are your priorities for the permanent program and what are your ideas for how the program can create dining setups that are safe, accessible, equitable and good neighbors?
Take the Open Restaurants survey here.
Stay tuned for upcoming public design roundtables on nyc.gov/engage.
This adopted zoning amendment is the first of a series of changes to create a permanent Open Restaurants program. For example, the City is crafting design rules with New Yorkers’ feedback to ensure dining setups are safe, accessible, and welcoming to all. The zoning changes will not go into effect until the permanent program is finalized.
For more information and to ask questions, please contact: OpenRestaurantsText@planning.nyc.gov.