DBP hosts webinar discussion on NYC’s Open Restaurants plan
The webinar was an opportunity to hear key city agencies discuss the plan and how it would work.
June 24, 2020
On Monday, June 22nd, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership hosted a webinar discussion on the City’s Open Restaurants plan to permit the use of sidewalks and parking spaces for outdoor dining. Under the plan, food and beverage establishments are able to serve customers in outdoor areas without enduring a cumbersome application and approval process.
The questions and answers below provide more information about program eligibility, self-certification, and guidelines.
Program Eligibility and Self-Certification Process
Are restaurants able to put out seating immediately, once they’ve self-certified?
Yes. Restaurants are asked to post the document that they receive upon getting self-certified in their window. Applicants will also receive, by email, a parking sign that they can put up to help indicate and clear the curb for seating on the roadway. Per New York State guidelines, restaurants should also develop a safety plan and post it on site.
What if a request for certain allowable setups, like roadway seating in part-time no-standing zones, is denied?
As long as businesses indicate in their online application that they will comply with the guidelines, their request will go through. For assistance completing the application, businesses can call the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) Hotline at (888) 727-4692.
A certain amount of sidewalk and curb space is required according to the siting criteria. For businesses that have narrow sidewalks or limited curb space due to bus lanes, fire hydrants, or other features, will the program be expanded in the future?
Two other components in the Mayor’s proposal for open restaurants, for which guidelines are being considered at this time, are the use of plaza space and Open Streets for additional seating. More information will be available in the coming weeks.
In the interim, business can contact the NYCDOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner’s office at (646) 892-1350 to discuss on-site visits to explore options available under the current guidelines. With regard to fire hydrants, the City requires a 15-foot clearance.
What types of outdoor seating setups are appropriate? Can I put a tent or umbrellas outside? Can chairs and tables be placed on cellar doors? Can I build a deck in a curblane?
- Weighted umbrellas are permissible, tents are not.
- Nothing should be affixed to the sidewalk or roadway. Fixed structures, like building roofs, are not eligible for outdoor dining under this program.
- Decks can be built on the curblane, as long as they meet certain requirements. Consult the site guidelines for the latest updates.
- The State’s Phase II guidelines specify what constitutes outdoor space.
- With regard to structures like storm drains, manhole covers, and gas valves on the sidewalk and in the roadway, the City reserves the right to ask restaurants to move materials in case construction or utility companies need to access the facility.
- Chairs and tables may be located over sidewalk cellar doors that are not in use as long as the doors are compliant with all New York City codes and regulations.
- NYCDOT will be evaluating how the program can evolve. The Open Restaurants web page will continue to be updated with further clarification about best practices, and updates and examples will also be shared on social media.
Can businesses use adjacent storefront frontage if they can secure a lease agreement or written approval from the property owner, or if the neighboring establishment is empty?
Restaurants may not take up more space than their business frontage at this time. NYCDOT may be able to provide additional guidance on utilizing other empty spaces in the coming weeks.
For restaurants proposing use of the sidewalk and curb lane in front of the establishment, can the 8-foot pedestrian path be in the curb lane or does it need to be on the sidewalk?
The 8-foot clear path needs to be on the sidewalk. Its placement is critical for people to be able to access the businesses.
Can drinks be served, without food, to tables outside?
Please refer to the State Liquor Authority (SLA) license guidance and requirements.
If a restaurant takes over parking spaces in the curb lane, are they allowed to maintain those spaces seven days a week?
Yes; as long as the restaurant is not in a part-time moving lane, they can set up and keep their barriers on-site for the duration of the program, even after gathering up furniture at night.
Do seating and social distancing guidelines also apply to backyard dining? What are the capacity restrictions for backyard dining at this time?
According to the State’s Phase II guidelines, the same social distancing measures apply to all outdoor spaces. There is no specific capacity requirements, but because tables must be placed six feet apart, capacity will depend on the size of the space. Additionally, indoor capacity must also follow social distancing guidelines, including staying six feet apart, in accommodating customer access to outdoor seating from inside the restaurant, restrooms, etc.
What are the requirements for restaurants with restrooms that are normally open to restaurant patrons?
The State guidelines do not address making restrooms available to the public. Restaurants are encouraged to review guidance on social distancing and sanitizing, especially with regard to frequently touched surfaces.
What is the protocol for restaurants under elevated trains?
In the guidance relating to reopening, the New York City health code also applies. Restaurants will need to consider whether there is potential for food contamination given their location and set up whatever is needed to prevent contamination. Access the NYC Restaurant Reopening Guide here.
What does enforcement look like?
The formal mechanism for complaints is through 311 or the SBS hotline at (888) 727-4692. Complaints received through 311 are routed to different agencies depending on the issue. Participation in the program is encouraged; the agency will follow up on how issues can be addressed.
Are there any plans to expand the program to other retail that may want to transition point-of-sale to outside?
Not at this time.
With the rollout of this program, will the New York City Council move forward on legislation proposed last month that would require NYCDOT to create a self-certification process for restaurants to temporarily expand dining to sidewalks and other approved open space?
On June 25, the bill passed in City Council.
Is there a limit to how many restaurants can participate in the program?
No. All restaurants that qualify and self-certify can participate.
Will participants be promoted in any way?
NYCDOT’s web page features the NYC Open Restaurants map and dashboard at nycopenrestaurants.info. Restaurants appear in this database as soon as they self-certify.
NYCDOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray
NYCSBS Commissioner Jonnel Doris
Deputy Commissioner for Environmental Health, Corinne Schiff
NYC Council Member Stephen T. Levin
NYC Council Member Antonio Reynoso
NYCDOT Director of Public Space, Emily Weidenhof
Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance