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Once Temporary Outdoor Dining Program Becomes Permanent NYC Fixture (with some restrictions)

On August 3, 2023, the New York City Council approved a bill to make the once temporary outdoor dining program a permanent fixture in the city with one significant change: outdoor structures on the city streets can only be in position from April to November, while sidewalk dining will be allowed all year-round.

“Outdoor dining is here to stay in New York City,” Mayor Eric Adams announced in a statement hailing the bill’s passing.

The outdoor dining program, initially instituted by Mayor Bill de Blasio, was created to assist the struggling restaurant industry in 2020. Restaurants were given permission to install dining structures on the streets and tables on the sidewalks, allowing diners to eat alfresco as restrictions on indoor dining began to turn the industry upside down. Amid a battle over whether to extend the temporary lifeline given to the then-struggling restaurant industry, the New York City Council finally struck a deal approving the bill last week, offering a sigh of relief to the city's bustling food industry.

In a statement, Mayor Admas hailed that “the temporary program saved 100,000 jobs, kept restaurants afloat during the peak of the pandemic, and brought new energy and excitement to (the city's) streets and sidewalks” . But, the mayor also admitted “(the program) wasn’t perfect. Too many sheds were abandoned and left to rot and too few lived up to our vision of what our streets should look like.”

Taking into account the pros and the cons of the situation, the bill was created to preserve the best parts of the program and eliminate the worst.

Under the new bill, dining structures on the streets of the city will need to be removed during the winter, though sidewalk dining will be allowed with a permit all year-round.

The bill, sponsored by Councilwoman Marjorie Velazquez, replaces the temporary program that allowed restaurants to use sidewalks or roads year-round.

Restaurants will also need a license for all outdoor dining structures and will need to pay a fee based on location and square footage. The Department of Transportation will be responsible for enforcing and administering licenses.

With only 1,400 restaurants having sidewalk-café licenses before the pandemic, and the number of outdoor setups jumping to over 12,000, outdoor dining has woven itself into the fabric of the whole city, bringing new life to neighborhoods across all five boroughs.

By Eileen Strauss


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