On Saturday, February 3rd, New York City officially announced the final rules for its permanent outdoor dining program, marking the end of the pandemic-era dining sheds and introducing new regulations aimed at enhancing the city’s streetscape. The changes, set to take effect in March 2024, reflect the city’s efforts to balance the vibrancy of outdoor dining with the needs of pedestrians and the aesthetics of the city’s neighborhoods.
Under the new guidelines, the iconic dining sheds that became a common sight across the city during the COVID-19 pandemic will no longer be permitted. Instead, restaurants will be allowed to set up open-air, easily movable structures for outdoor dining from April to November. These structures must meet specific design and safety criteria, including wheelchair accessibility, proper drainage, and barriers, ensuring a seamless integration into the city’s urban fabric.
Sidewalk seating will continue to be available year-round, but roadway dining setups will be seasonal, with requirements for easy dismantling and storage during the off-season months. Additionally, the new rules stipulate that outdoor dining areas must close by midnight, an hour earlier than previously proposed by restaurant owners, and cannot occupy metered parking spaces.
The announcement comes after extensive consultations with stakeholders and lessons learned from the temporary outdoor dining program initiated during the pandemic. This program was credited with saving approximately 100,000 jobs but also led to quality-of-life concerns due to some poorly maintained and regulated setups.
Mayor Eric Adams hailed the new program as a transformative effort to reimagine New York City’s streetscape while supporting small businesses. “Between Dining Out NYC, our campaign to get trash bags off of New York City streets, our efforts to remove scaffolding that has been up for far too long, and the hundreds of millions we’re investing in public realm projects across the city, we’re fundamentally transforming what it feels like to be outside in New York,” Adams stated.
The final rules aim to create a more robust and “lighter-weight” outdoor dining experience across all five boroughs, significantly altering the landscape of outdoor dining in New York City from its state just a few years ago. As the city moves forward with these changes, the outdoor dining scene is set to evolve, reflecting New York’s dynamic and ever-changing urban environment.