On Monday, the New York City Planning Commission (CPC) unanimously approved a text amendment (the Amendment) to the Zoning Resolution of the City of New York (the Zoning Resolution) in order to remove geographic restrictions on the location of sidewalk cafes within New York City. This Amendment is being made in connection with the City's creation of a permanent "Open Restaurants" program. The Amendment must be approved by the City Council before it goes into effect.
Although supported by the restaurant industry, the Amendment has faced substantial opposition from local community boards and residents. In the event the Amendment is approved by the City Council, the City's Department of Transportation (DOT) will promulgate rules regarding the application process.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Zoning Resolution limited outdoor dining to specific districts. Outdoor dining also required an application to DOT and public review before the local community board. During the pandemic, mayoral executive orders suspended these restrictions, enabling restaurants across the City to offer outdoor dining through the Open Restaurants program with a simple online application.
While the Amendment will lift geographic restrictions on locations for outdoor dining, restaurants will need DOT approval to operate permanent outdoor dining. Applicants will be required to provide details on the sidewalk's clear, structural, and roadway barriers, and number of seats.
Restaurants operating under the current Open Restaurants program may continue to do so through the end of 2022, allowing for a transition period before the permanent program is launched in 2023.