Few industries were hit as hard by the pandemic as the restaurant business… With countless restaurants closed for months on end, some temporarily and some permanently, it was an incredibly dark time for the industry. However, tragedy can often spur necessary change. And in this case, the pandemic resulted in the Temporary Open Restaurant Program.
This program has laid the groundwork for what has now officially become a permanent change in New York City's outdoor dining landscape: the "Dining Out NYC" program finally, officially approved!
The "Dining Out NYC" program marks a significant transformation in the dining landscape of New York City. As the largest outdoor dining program in the country, it builds on the temporary measures created during the pandemic, codifying the rules and turning them into a permanent fixture of business in the industry.
Officially announced on August 16th, 2023, the development of the "Dining Out NYC" program involved more than a year of intricate negotiations. The process was marked by a collective effort to reimagine the city's streetscape and transform the way residents and visitors enjoy curb and sidewalk spaces.
The "Dining Out NYC" program is set for full implementation by spring 2024, allowing for outdoor dining to be legally available across all five boroughs. To facilitate this, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will launch an online application portal aimed at simplifying the application process, allowing restaurant owners to easily access all necessary information and submit required documents.
More information can be found on the city’s website. In order to be eligible you must have a ground floor restaurant that is visible from the street and directly accessible to the public from the street in one of the five boroughs.
The program allows for year-round outdoor dining on sidewalks and seasonal dining from April to November on roadways.
This flexibility provides restaurants with additional opportunities to extend their dining spaces into various public areas, depending on the season. The inclusion of seasonal roadway dining from April through November is a compromise between the city and the hospitality business.
Approved outdoor dining structures can be erected from April until November. The mandate to remove these structures every winter could pose logistical and financial challenges for some restaurant owners as removal and seasonal storage could incur additional costs.
The new permanent program, will include a faster, less expensive, and a less complicated licensing process for sidewalk cafes than existed previously. The outdoor dining license fee is now set at $1,050 for a four-year term, a change from the previous two-year payment cycle. Consent fees will vary, ranging from $6 to $31 per square foot depending on the location.
80% of the city will be paying the lowest rate, while the rest of Manhattan will pay the highest rate. More info on rates by sector and how to calculate can be found on the city’s website or below.
This new fee structure represents a significant reduction in costs from the previous system, as fees for seasonal roadway dining will be proportionally lower, reflecting its limited availability. Previously it was charged at $40 per square foot. So, a HUGE reduction in fees.
The city is in the process of developing specific design and operational guidelines for outdoor dining structures. The city says these rules will aim to ensure a uniform look across the city's outdoor dining spaces.
Applications will no longer require plans to be prepared by a professional architect or engineer, thus saving restaurant owners additional costs.
Restaurant owners should be prepared for the possibility of having to tear down and replace their existing dining sheds, as fully enclosed structures will no longer be permitted according to our friends at the NYC hospitality alliance. Additionally, new outdoor dining structures may also face reduced operation hours (10:00 a.m. to midnight) and new sanitary standards. Again, this could put significant costs on businesses still recovering from the financial impact of the pandemic.
Existing temporary dining structures are allowed to remain in place, with a phase-in period extending until November 2024 established to allow these structures to gradually comply with the new regulations. Non-compliant structures must be removed by November 1st, 2024, to align with the city's new guidelines.
In the future, a range of short-term permits for outdoor dining will be introduced. One such permit will be available to new tenants of properties that hosted a licensed outdoor café within the last two years, provided the new setup closely resembles the previous one.
Another type of temporary permit aims to expedite the process for newcomers, allowing them to commence operations more quickly as they await formal approval for consent.
The "Dining Out NYC" program presents both challenges and opportunities for restaurant owners and industry professionals.
Weather conditions such as heatwaves and wildfire smoke may impact outdoor dining experiences. Additionally, the requirement for businesses to identify storage space for non-roadway seasons could pose logistical challenges.
There are also the potential costs associated with building new outdoor dining structures, as well as disassembling and storing them during the off-season.
However, the program also opens up new possibilities for enhancing the pedestrian experience, supporting local businesses, and improving the overall vibrancy of the city's streets. The balance between these challenges and opportunities will be a key factor in the successful implementation and long-term sustainability of the program.
The "Dining Out NYC" program has introduced dramatic changes to outdoor dining in New York City, including:
These new rules have received a mixed reception from the restaurant industry, with many decrying the additional financial burden the city is putting on them. However, there is also the potential for a dramatic increase in the quality and quantity of outdoor dining options in all five boroughs. It will all depend on how these outdoor dining rules evolve over time to meet the real needs of the restaurants and their customers.
To prepare for the implementation of "Dining Out NYC," we are ready to help! At ChairUp, we offer Installation, Removal, and Storage services for your outdoor dining structures. We not only remove your dining structure, but also remove all the headaches associated with it! Our easy assemble/disassemble features make this the perfect option for NYC restaurant owners!