The fate of outdoor dining structures for Hell’s Kitchen restaurant owners might pivot on parking restrictions outside their premises.
After the Department of Transport (DOT) issued proposed rules for outdoor dining, restaurant owners closely examined the fine print and found their futures could hinge on parking signs on their street or avenue. Most establishments on 9th and 10th Avenues will likely have to remove their sheds between 4-7 pm or forfeit outdoor seating due to the “No Standing” parking rules.
While owners welcome the clarity after operating under temporary pandemic permissions, some worry the regulations will make outdoor dining much more difficult.
“If applied as proposed, the rules do little to fulfill the promise of permanent street seating, except for the few restaurants not infringing on parking restrictions,” said Charlie Marshall, chef and owner of The Marshal on 10th Avenue. “We’ll likely lose outdoor seating after November 2024.”
Marshall said the changes could shrink his current 28 seats to just eight. Across Hell’s Kitchen, multiple restaurants have removed outdoor sheds over the past two years to accommodate new bike lanes. Firstly, in May 2022, over 500 outdoor dining seats were lost during the creation of the “super sidewalk” on 9th Avenue. More recently, in July 2023, the west side of 10th Avenue was cleared to create a bike lane.
“Outdoor dining saved 100,000 jobs in New York City during the pandemic and gave the five boroughs something New Yorkers had been craving for a long time, and now, thanks to this program, it is here to stay,” said Mayor Adams. “Our vision for the program will be developed in close partnership with restaurant owners, diners, and communities, and I am confident it will be a win for our entire city.”
The newly proposed outdoor dining guidelines requiring open-air structures have frustrated restaurant and bar owners, who argue such flimsy setups won’t withstand the city’s increasingly unpredictable and severe weather. Mathias Van Leyden, the owner of Loulou in Chelsea, spent $200,000 on his enclosed outdoor sheds and refuses to shell out more money to satisfy the new rules, bluntly stating to Streetsblog: “They can go F— themselves.”
After struggling through the pandemic, labor shortages and inflation, profit margins remain thin for many restaurants. Continued outdoor seating may determine whether some eateries can be economically viable.
Local Councilmember Erik Bottcher, who voted against outdoor dining when the bill passed in August, said: “As we begin to review these draft rules, it is important to remember that they are just that — draft rules. This is the opportunity for all stakeholders to provide their feedback and ensure that these regulations work for both our beloved small businesses and our residents alike. I encourage everyone to thoroughly review the draft rules and actively participate in the feedback process. Together, I’m hopeful we can shape a framework that supports our local businesses and creates a vibrant, inclusive environment for all New Yorkers.”
New Yorkers can provide written comments on the proposed rules online or by attending a virtual public hearing online or by phone on Monday, November 20 at 10am. To sign up to speak at the hearing, email email@example.com. Permits are not expected to be issued until Spring 2024 and owners can operate under current guidelines until November 2024.