We love the NYC Open Restaurant program, and the sidewalk seating that brings a European touch to NYC and allows struggling restaurants to keep their staffs working. More than 9,000 NYC restaurants are participating, many in the weekend program which closes off streets entirely for full blocks of outdoor dining.
What we don’t love is restaurants which take over more of the sidewalk and or streets than permitted under the rules, endangering pedestrians and slowing street traffic. Luckily, there are just a few of those bad actors out of more than 9,000 good guys.
NYC Open Restaurant rules require that restaurants leave a clear path of at least eight feet for pedestrians between tables and barriers and the curb, and that they cannot block fire hydrants, subway grates or bus stops and waiting areas.
The rules also require a clear path of at least three feet for pedestrians around trees with protective raised guards, telephone kiosks and NYC information kiosks.
The rules for roadway seating require tables and barricades cannot be within eight feet of a crosswalk or 15 feet of a fire hydrant.
Even if you support the NYC Open Restaurant program – as we do, unquestionably and enthusiastically – please report violations to NYC DOT, via 311.
Here are the full official NYC rules, cut and pasted directly off the official NYC website.
NYC DOT may immediately revise, terminate or suspend, for a period of time and without prior notice, the seating area usage based on valid complaints, lack of ADA access, need for repairs, or for any other reason.
- Seating and tables must be up against the wall of the business or as close as possible
- Sidewalk seating area may not exceed business frontage
- Must leave an 8′ clear path for pedestrians
- Must be at least 3′ from the adjacent business
- Cannot block subway grate, utility hardware or Siamese water connection
- Cannot block bus stop waiting area
- For clear path purposes, parking meters, traffic signs and tree pits with flush gratings (without tree guards) are exempt. All other above-grade structures are considered obstructions
- Tables and chairs must be provided by applicant
- Create a protective barrier, such as planters or objects of similar size and weight, on all three sides of the seating perimeter that are in the roadway, to separate seating from the travel lane. Such barriers must be at least 18” in width and 30-36” in height (excluding plantings) on all three sides that are in the roadway, to preserve visibility for motorists and provide protection for patrons (see Siting Criteria diagram)
- Place such barriers directly adjacent to each other (no gaps) and no more than 8’ from the curb (see Siting Criteria diagram)
- Roadway seating may not exceed the length of business frontage
- Ensure visibility of patrons and barriers at night by clearly marking all barriers with yellow high intensity retro-reflective tape or reflectors (see Siting Criteria diagram)
- Provide a ramp for ADA compliance, which can be made of non-permanent materials
- Not place seating or barriers within 15’ of a fire hydrant. Doing so jeopardizes fire safety for your fellow New Yorkers
- Not place seating or barriers within 8’ of a crosswalk, to provide for safe vehicle turns and avoid crowding
- Not provide any lighting that is blinding to passing traffic
- Not place seating within a No Stopping Anytime or No Standing Anytime zone, bike lane, bus lane/stop, taxi stand, or Car Share space
[Exception: For part-time No Stopping or No Standing zones, seating may be placed when those rules are not in effect. Barriers and seating must be removed from the roadway when No Stopping or No Standing is in effect]
- Only utilize umbrellas with a weighted base or tents or other shelters, not to exceed 400 SF (square feet) in total or fully enclose the seating area, which follow manufacturers installation instructions to secure the tents properly and safely. Areas of multiple tents that are combined or are tied to each other cannot exceed 400 SF in total. All such umbrellas and tents may not extend past the barrier, obstruct access to or ventilation of utility covers, or obstruct clear paths. Umbrellas and tents should not be used during inclement weather such as high wind condition.
- Sign up for a Weather Advisory Subscription. Refer to the DOB 2020-013 Bulletin.
- Tables, chairs, and barriers must be provided by applicant
- Remove tables and chairs or secure them in place when not in operation
- Comply with NYC Fire Department Open Flame and other applicable Fire Codes
Restaurant owners may:
- Leave barriers in place within a metered zone, alternate side parking, or No Parking Anytime zone, provided that that tables and chairs are removed or secured when not in operation
- Where seating is authorized along a curb, install a platform behind the required barrier to flush height with curb to facilitate ADA compliance, prevent the curb from becoming a tripping hazard, and allow drainage to underpass seating
- Such platforms shall not block rain water drainage getting to the curb or flowing along the curb
- Such platforms shall not obstruct access to or ventilation of utility covers.
Video: Open Restaurants Roadway Seating Walk-Through
For an audio described version of this video in English, please visit: https://youtu.be/130xTlwVYl8
Prepare Documents to Self-Certify
Food establishments meeting NYC’s Open Restaurants requirements, may apply for the program. Please have the following information available to apply:
- Business name (DBA), address and contact information
- Food Service Establishment Permit number
- Dimensions of sidewalk and/or roadway seating areas
Establishments planning to serve alcohol must also provide:
- State Liquor Authority (“SLA”) serial number
- SLA license information
- Licensee certification