The longstanding debate over what to do about outdoor dining may finally get a resolution this afternoon, when New York City Council votes on a bill that would make it a permanent feature of the NYC streetscape.
- New York City Council to Vote on Outdoor Dining Bill: A longstanding debate over outdoor dining in New York City is nearing resolution as the City Council is set to vote on a bill that would make outdoor dining a permanent feature. The bill, supported by Mayor Eric Adams, would allow roadway cafes from April to November and sidewalk cafes year-round for holders of a four-year permit at a cost of $1,050. Opponents have raised concerns over noise and sanitation.
- Industry Leaders Express Frustration and Hope: Hospitality leaders have shown both support and frustration regarding the bill, acknowledging it as a compromise that can significantly cut fees for small businesses and enhance the city’s appeal. Some have also expressed dissatisfaction with the slow progress and delays in coming up with a plan for outdoor dining, emphasizing the importance of well-structured regulations.
- Legal Challenges and Compliance Issues: Outdoor dining sheds were initially authorized as an emergency measure during the pandemic, and Mayor Adams has since issued multiple extensions. A judge has recently ruled against further extensions, citing no basis for outdoor dining now that the pandemic has subsided. Additionally, outdoor dining sheds not in compliance with new rules must be removed by November 1, 2024, indicating potential challenges with implementation and compliance.
* This summary is made with the support of AI tool ChatGPT 4.0 and quality checked by W42ST staff.
The bill was first introduced in February of 2022 and has undergone multiple iterations since. Mayor Eric Adams has been a strong supporter of outdoor dining, while opponents highlight noise and sanitation issues.
This version of the bill would allow roadway cafes from April to November, and sidewalk cafes all year round for holders of a four-year permit. Curb-based roadway seating will require a separate four-year permit. Each permit costs $1,050 and the Department of Transportation will oversee the program.
“There are things that all sides of the argument are both happy and unhappy about,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance. “It’s a big compromise but the most important thing is that the City Council votes to pass this bill.”
The Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection will vote on the bill today, followed by the full New York City Council later in the day. Council Member Erik Bottcher, whose district covers parts of The Village, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, has not made known how he plans to vote on the issue. We will update the story if CM Bottcher gets back to us with a comment before the vote.
“It is critically important that the City Council votes to pass this bill,” said Rigie, “It’s not perfect, but it’s resulted in a bill that is much better than sidewalk cafe laws pre-pandemic. It is going to significantly cut the fees for small businesses to participate and it’s a much more inclusive program.”
“I don’t understand what’s taken them so long to figure it out. It’s not rocket science. Come up with a plan. We all follow. We all pay a fee. It’s done right and end the story,” said Sean Hayden, owner/partner at Jasper’s Taphouse and Kitchen, and four other local bars Alfie’s, McCoy’s, Dalton’s and Valerie in Midtown.
“They say they would have done it at the end of 2020, the end of 2021, the end of 2022. Now we’re in the middle of 2023 and they still haven’t come up with a plan,” added Hayden. “Every cosmopolitan city in the world has outdoor seating. If it’s done right, it’s a beautiful thing for the neighborhood, for tourism, for everything. It just has to be structured in the right place and then operators can follow it.”
“I believe the city, state, and federal government should do everything possible to save the restaurant/hospitality industry from total collapse since post-pandemic” said Steve Olsen, owner of West Bank Cafe on W42nd Street. “NYC is a long way off from recovery and the worst is yet to come.”
A spokesperson for Times Square Alliance told W42ST: “We look forward to seeing how the vote turns out today, and are committed to working with all restaurants in Times Square, including on Restaurant Row, to comply with any new outdoor dining legislation.”
Outdoor dining sheds were originally authorized by former Mayor Bill de Blasio as an emergency measure during the pandemic to help a struggling restaurant industry. An estimated 100,000 jobs were saved — and in August 2022, Mayor Adams announced the launch of a new program to make the outdoor dining sheds permanent.
Adams has since issued numerous emergency orders to extend the program. A judge ruled on Tuesday that there is no basis for outdoor dining now the pandemic has subsided and issued an injunction to prevent Adams from issuing further emergency orders to continue the program.
Dining sheds in Hell’s Kitchen have been reduced over the past year. In July, multiple restaurants on 10th Avenue including Tulcingo Del Valle, DBL, Valla Table and Mémé Mediterranean were forced to remove their outdoor dining sheds due to the creation of a new bike lane.
Whatever happens, outdoor dining sheds in New York that are not in compliance with the new rules will need to be removed by November 1, 2024.