The New York City Council approved a permanent outdoor dining program in a 34-11 vote this afternoon. Erik Bottcher, the Council Member for Hell’s Kitchen, voted against the legislation.
- The New York City Council approved a permanent outdoor dining program with a 34-11 vote, allowing roadway cafes from April to November and sidewalk cafes all year with permits. The legislation also includes regulations regarding the timing, permit costs, and location-specific fees for outdoor dining.
- Some local business owners and chefs welcomed the decision, seeing it as a way to cut red tape, while Council Member Erik Bottcher voted against the bill, expressing concern over the lack of Council Members’ ability to approve applications for dining in the roadbed, and others have raised concerns about the details of the program, such as storage, safety and sanitation issues.
- Mayor Eric Adams is expected to sign the bill into law, making outdoor dining a permanent fixture in New York City, with the new law aiming to address the biggest hurdles in making outdoor dining more equitable and accessible. Non-compliant dining sheds must be removed by November 1, 2024.
* This summary is made with the support of AI tool ChatGPT 4.0 and quality checked by W42ST staff.
Once Mayor Eric Adams signs the legislation passed by Council on Thursday afternoon, outdoor dining will become an al fresco experience that is permanent and more regulated.
This afternoon, CM Bottcher told W42ST the reason for his no vote: “While I do support a permanent outdoor dining program and this bill has a lot of good provisions, I believe it falls short because it doesn’t give Council Members the ability to vote on approving applications for dining in the roadbed. It only gives us authority to approve sidewalk cafe applications.”
There are several key differences from the city’s pandemic-era outdoor dining program. Roadway cafes will only be allowed from April to November, while sidewalk cafes will be allowed all year round for holders of a four-year permit. A separate permit for curb-based roadway seating will be required. The program will be overseen by the Department of Transportation, with each permit costing $1,050.
Restaurants will be allowed to serve customers outdoors from 10 am until midnight — and in addition to the permits required, fees will be based on the restaurants’ location and size. The fees are higher for restaurants in Manhattan below 125th Street.
“This is great news! The devil is in the details, of course, so I think it remains to be seen how accessible and equitable this program will be for small businesses once all the final regulations are hammered out,” said chef Charlie Marshall at The Marshal on 10th Avenue.
Sean Hayden, owner/partner at Jasper’s Taphouse and Kitchen, along with local bars Alfie’s, McCoy’s, Dalton’s and Valerie had been frustrated by the speed of the process, but was delighted this afternoon. “This is great news,” he told us. “Hopefully, it doesn’t take too long to get the exact design specs — and then everybody sticks to it and keeps the places nice and clean so that people can sit outside and enjoy their meals.”
Amy Scherber, owner of Amy’s Bread, was excited by the bill being passed today. “I think it’s fantastic! It cuts the red tape that business owners have to go through. I had to hire an architect and a lawyer to help with all the paperwork for our outdoor cafe in Brooklyn several years ago. Outdoor cafes make the streets look more inviting and provide extra revenue for places with a tiny indoor dining room. It’s great for people to enjoy sitting outdoors in nice weather. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Robert Guarino, co-owner of Nizza, 5 Napkin Burger and Marseille on 9th Avenue, told W42ST this afternoon: “I was very pleased to learn that the City Council passed this permanent outdoor dining legislation today. I think this is a big win for quality of life in NYC. It was long overdue for there to be clear, permanent guidelines in place. The new process should improve on some of the shortcomings of the emergency legislation, while still allowing NYC streets and sidewalks to flourish with life.”
“We’re thrilled the City Council has passed this historic permanent outdoor dining program that includes sidewalk cafes and streeteries. The new law will cut the red tape and fees for restaurants to participate when compared to the overly restrictive pre-pandemic sidewalk café licenses, which excluded so many restaurants throughout the five boroughs from offering al fresco dining,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance in a statement.
The Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection voted this morning to advance the bill to make outdoor dining a permanent fixture. The vote passed 7-1 with the only vote against coming from CM Bottcher, who represents parts of The Village, Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen.
Bottcher told Streetsblog last year “The use of road space for outdoor dining has been an overall positive development. Banning all restaurants from using road space for dining would be a mistake.” Bottcher had made the statement in response to City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams who at the time was against the bill but voted in favor of the resolution today.
The full City Council later voted on the bill, with 34 members in favor, 11 voting against and no abstentions.
The Department of Transportation has already been responsible for the removal of several outdoor dining sheds in Hell’s Kitchen due to the implementation of a new bike lane along 10th Avenue. Tulcingo Del Valle, DBL, Valla Table and Mémé Mediterranean were all forced to remove their outdoor dining sheds.
Last year, more than 30 of Hell’s Kitchen’s restaurants and bars were ordered to dismantle their outdoor dining structures.
The bill was first introduced in February 2022 and has since seen multiple iterations as sides have continuously negotiated. Opponents have been concerned about noise, parking and sanitary issues that outdoor dining sheds bring.
“I’m also concerned because of the storage for their storefronts. What happens in the time between November and April when they’re not outdoors, how will they be storing their tables and chairs?” said Gale Brewer, who represents the 6th district of Manhattan (which includes parts of Hell’s Kitchen above W54th Street). She voted in favor of the bill but expressed concerns over some of the details. “Small businesses already pay a tax and I want to make sure that those that are paying for their outdoor cafes have a reasonable opportunity that’s not too high.”
Mayor Eric Adams has been a strong supporter of outdoor dining. He had issued numerous emergency orders to extend the program but a judge ruled on Tuesday that there is no basis for outdoor dining now that the pandemic has subsided. The judge also issued an injunction to prevent Adams from issuing further emergency orders to continue the program.
Now that the bill has been passed by the City Council, the bill will be presented to Mayor Adams who has 30 days to sign, veto, or take no action — although it is expected he will sign it into law.
“Outdoor dining is here to stay in New York City — and after decades of deliberation and a temporary program that showed us so much potential, I’m proud to lead the administration that will deliver a superior permanent outdoor dining product to New Yorkers and all those visiting the five boroughs,” said Adams in a statement.
“This important piece of legislation will be a huge economic boon for our vital restaurant industry,” said Marjorie Velazquez, who sponsored the bill. “Building on what worked during the pandemic, we as a Council have addressed the biggest hurdles to making outdoor dining more equitable.”
Outdoor dining sheds that are not in compliance with the new rules must be removed by November 1, 2024.
Here are some memories of Hell’s Kitchen outdoor dining from the pandemic to now…