Hell’s Kitchen restaurateurs are preparing for another summer of “streeteries”. As the City Council gears up to finalize legislation to restrict and codify outdoor dining sheds, many of the neighborhood’s restaurants find themselves in a state of flux.

Outdoor Dining on Restaurant Row.
The South side of Restaurant row still has dining sheds — for now. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Once a mini-village of their own dominating the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, the large structures — ranging from exquisitely designed to shabby — are far less of a prevalent force on the once chock-full 9th Avenue. Walking around the neighborhood revealed more newly dismantled sheds on the north side of Restaurant Row (the south side of the street’s sheds still remain) as well as a shift to more temporary structures like Lilly’s Craft Kitchen. The shed at Casellula (removed by the city while the space prepares to open for business as The Red Stache) served as a microcosm for the dual dynamic many restaurants faced with their sheds — in part, a necessary investment to keep their businesses afloat amid the many dining restrictions throughout the pandemic that also created new challenges (in Casellula’s case, someone decorated and took up residence in their shed). 

City Council legislation that would require outdoor sheds to be removable from November through April, create a system administered by the Department of Transportation to address sanitary and safety violations for noncompliant proprietors as well as set up a fee and licensing system for roadway cafes (the city’s current sidewalk license and fees can cost businesses as much as $20,000 per year) has just had the green light to move forward in an updated version of 2022’s Bill Int-31A. City Council members told Streetsblog that the bill, which had previously languished without progress for over a year, could see a vote within the next few weeks. If the new laws pass, businesses would be set a deadline to remove the current sheds by November 2024.

Outdoor dining at Lilly's on 9th Avenue.
Lilly’s Craft & Kitchen has moved to a more temporary outdoor dining setup. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Hell’s Kitchen business owners told W42ST that many of the new rules and regulations could make setting up an outdoor dining sheds for just a few months of extra revenue not worth it. “The NYC government has long used small businesses as their personal ATM while it still doesn’t have a wealth tax,” said PS Kitchen owner Jeff La Padula. “This is just another example of beating up the little people, while the richest New York businesses and corporations get away with all the breaks NYC finds a way to tax more from small businesses and make things harder. Outdoor seating has been a lifeline for us personally and we wish we didn’t have to pay fees now to keep it going, it will really eat into our numbers.”

Other restaurateurs noted that while additional regulations would be challenging, they were used to the process from the city’s previously formalized sidewalk cafe application process. “Before the COVID shutdown, outdoor dining was extremely expensive and heavily regulated in the city, with a year-long application process, the need for restaurants to hire an architect and to submit formal stamped and sealed architectural plans to the city (this was for tables just sitting on the sidewalk, not in the street), and numerous high-bar requirements that in many ways felt engineered to dissuade independent restaurants from applying for outdoor seating at all,” said Charlie Marshall, owner of The Marshal. “That said, there was overall compliance by restaurants and a predictable outcome for neighborhood residents. As much as the current outdoor seating arrangements have benefitted us as restaurant owners, the current wild-west formula is obviously not a long term solution. I think that if fees are kept extremely low so as not to push out small mom n’ pop operators, a compliance structure could be beneficial to everyone. The devil of course will be in the details.”

Summer on 9th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen.
9th Avenue has far fewer dining sheds than it did last summer. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Few restaurateurs and New Yorkers expected the sheds to have lasted this long. Authorized as an emergency triage measure by then-mayor Bill de Blasio in June 2020 as means to rescue the restaurant industry, an estimated 100,000 jobs were saved as a result of the program. At first, the city embraced the structures — even going as far as to create an awards system for the most well-designed sheds. But as time wore on and indoor dining returned to the Big Apple, the proliferance of rats, vandalism and dangerous drivers has led others to demand a new policy that would limit dining sheds — or remove them altogether.

Hell’s Kitchen resident Nick Proscia told W42ST of the structures, “All the outdoor sheds be removed. They are eye sores, they block traffic and are big contributors to the growing rat population.” Some residents, like reader Adele Loomis, countered that “outdoor dining has been an amazing change for Hell’s Kitchen. The sidewalks are livelier, safer, and more economically productive thanks to the dining structures, many of which are so beautiful,” said Adele. “We should make it easy for restaurants to maintain their outdoor dining areas year-round. It’s clear from taking a walk down any street in the neighborhood that the demand outweighs the complaints!” The love-hate relationship has spawned over 100 names for the outdoor structures.

The city has long straddled one foot in each camp. Mayor Adams announced the launch of a permanent outdoor dining program in August 2022, proudly declaring that the City Council was “working toward a permanent open restaurant solution — open seating that all New Yorkers can be proud of,” with a new set of standards to eliminate haphazard and unsafe sheds.

But should legislation pass regarding a new outdoor dining program, there could still be speed bumps ahead. The newly proposed bill includes a requirement of separate approval by the Landmarks Preservation Commission for outdoor sheds located in historic districts or by landmarked properties — which could spell significant challenges for restaurants in popular dining districts like the Upper West Side, Greenwich Village and Park Slope. Some groups, like West-Village based advocacy group CUEUP (Coalition United for Equitable Urban Policy) are calling for the city to “Sunset all roadway sheds now, then roll out citywide street cleaning and rat abatement programs.”

As for those who argue that roadway cafes are gutting the city’s on-street parking spaces — many New Yorkers countered that cars, which generally remain parked on the street 95 percent of the time in the city, did not need special protections. A satirical op-ed credited only to “a car” in local news outlet Hell Gate mused: “As an SUV who has been on the forefront of the vehicular rights movement basically since I was manufactured, I wept tears of oil reading this passage. This is New York City finally saying that parking spots are historically and architecturally significant enough to be preserved! Our homes are part of the city’s fabric, and cannot be wrested away by some crass bouillabaisse-slinger or struggling restaurant owner without a vote!”

Outdoor dining sheds have gone on the north side of Restaurant Row.
The North side of Restaurant Row (W46th St between 8/9th Ave) has been cleansed of dining sheds this year. Photo: Phil O’Brien

“We don’t want the space for the public just three months a year, we want to see that space year-round and people deserve it and people want it,” Director of Regional Infrastructure Projects at Tri-State Transportation Campaign Felicia Park-Rogers told Streetsblog. “There were parking problems before and there will be parking problems in the future. That’s not a reason to take away these spaces and give them back to cars. The pandemic is still happening and there are still people who can’t eat indoors.”

Henry Grabar of Slate Magazine agreed, arguing that the implementation of better design guidelines could lead to a sustainable year-round program that benefits New York’s quality of life. “That presence of people eating on the street is good for something besides restaurants,” wrote Grabar. “It has kept streets feeling busy, multiplying interactions between friends and neighbors, even in winter. It has made space for larger groups and immunocompromised diners and people with dogs. At times, it even creates a sense of joy.”

And while debate over how best to utilize “streetery” space may stretch well into the summer, at least one Hell’s Kitchen restaurant — Arriba Arriba — was in the process of building a new replacement outdoor dining shed after construction of the “super sidewalk” was completed on 9th Avenue. Back in May 2022, the city culled over 500 outdoor seats while construction took over the avenue and parts of the side streets.

Join the Conversation


  1. I loved the vibrancy the outdoor sheds gave, but on the other side, it does feel nice to walk down the sidewalks of 9th avenue and see a little bit of the sky again! I didn’t realize how confining those sheds made the sidewalk. HOWEVER… can we get rid of the sidewalk seating 😭 They take up precious sidewalk space on our already narrow sidewalks on the west side of 9th ave.

  2. The “shacks” have served their purpose and they will be, and are, empty most of the time, especially when it is sweltering hot outside and traffic is vaporizing the air next to them because their lane is gone.
    I was appalled at how dilapidated they all are when I saw them during the 9th avenue festival. The street underneath the ones with flooring has not been cleaned since they were put up. The shacks are magnets for rat garbage and after hour odd activities. I have seen discarded needles, used diapers, broken bottles, drug vials etc. I do appreciate the very few that are respectable and do not jam up the flow of the pedestrians and traffic.
    Take them back to the pre-pandemic format and let the restaurants compete with the popularity of their food service and pricing.
    It will eliminate the owner’s complaints about the city’s money grab tax/fee to allow them to extend into the street in the first place.

  3. I hate the sheds, I want them gone period. The sidewalks and overcrowded streets of NYC were not designed for outdoor eating sheds.

  4. Time to tear down all the outdoor sheds on 9th Avenue, along with any sitting areas. There just isn’t any room to walk!

  5. every one of these comments are basically the hellgate piece but not ironically. yes, wouldn’t the city be wonderful if we had room to eat, play, walk, bike, live and breathe outside?! if only we could figure out what’s making it intolerable or impossible to do all those other things on our loud and crowded streets…

  6. As a disabled person still at risk from COVID, the outdoor dining setups have been a lifeline allowing me to socialize. Any comments about removing them are rooted in ableism and ignorance. The benefits outweigh any downsides for more people than not and I would hate to see them go away because of few noisy Karen’s. Last time I checked no restaurant constructed a dome covering the whole sky, so just look up if you want to see it. To say they are not in use is hilarious because at times I have trouble getting a reservation because so many people want to sit outdoors for various reasons. If there was no demand, the restaurants simply wouldn’t want to do it.

    That said, standards in design and use are needed. Those that are abandoned or fully enclosed defeat their purpose and should be removed.

    1. Anna,
      One could argue that not everyone has the money to eat at a restaurant.
      That the ability to eat at a restaurant – including outside – benefits the privileged.
      IMO eating at a restaurant is not an entitlement

  7. The City has done everything to help restaurants and bars – free shed space, inspection hiatus, allowing take-out drinks etc.

    But the City has done nothing to help small shops and businesses!
    Small shops and businesses are suffering from high rent, ecommerce competition, shoplifting.

    Not only do the restaurant sheds bring trash and rats, but they also block adjoining stores/block store visibility.

  8. Good to see everyone in the comments begging for parked cars sitting in dirty gutters, complete with used condoms and dirty diapers, decorating the curb again. Who needs tablecloths and happy people crowing that space? New York… you never change.

    1. Da Jorgenson:
      Non-driver here…
      The restaurant shantytowns/rat resorts need to go.
      The rich restaurant owners have done quite well between free space and federal dollars.
      As a resident and taxpayer, I do not want subsidize rich restaurants that serve the privileged.

  9. The City basically allowed the restaurant lobby and bicycle lobby to decide that restaurants were to be prioritized above everything else. Especially restaurants owned by wealthy investors and LLCs that cater to the upscale.

    The supposed Democrats of the City Council are acting like Republicans in denying proper land use review and making legislative deals without bothering to canvass constituents.

    BTW there is already an oversaturation of restaurants in Manhattan and they are cannibalizing each other. There is a limit to the number of restaurants, food halls, chain food etc.
    Not everything can or should be a restaurant.

    If a casino gets built, Manhattan is basically done.
    Will just be the urban equivalent of NJ strip shopping

  10. I’m done with the sheds. I like the idea of cheaper licenses for temporary outdoor dining, like the picture above for Lillys. Temporary barriers are fine, but sheds are gross and make the neighborhood look like a 3rd world country.

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