New York

Outdoor Dining Could Become in NYC Seasonal Under New City Council Proposal


Many New York City restaurateurs will agree that outdoor dining was a lifeline during the pandemic, and efforts to do away with it in the city have mostly failed.

Now there are signs that it could be going away — but not for good.

On a wet and wintry February day Tuesday, thousands of outdoor dining sheds sat empty. That underlines the new push to remove the structures, at least until better weather, as there have been complaints that the dining areas are too empty, too often in the cold-weather months.

NBC New York has learned that city lawmakers are finalizing a deal to make the outdoor sheds, which sprang up in 2020 amid the height of the COVID pandemic, a seasonal thing.

Andrew Rigie of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, which represents 24,000 restaurants in the five boroughs, said that dismantling and rebuilding the structures would come at a cost to the restaurants — which may prove to be “prohibitive.”

Before the pandemic, 1,400 restaurants in the city had outdoor permits. Now it’s up to 13,000. And until now, the dining sheds had been a free as part of a COVID emergency plan.

But the new bill will charge restaurants for each permit.

“We need to cap the fees so it’s not cost prohibitive,” Rigie said.

In summer 2022, Mayor Eric Adams took a sledgehammer to an abandoned shed amid complaints they had become havens for vermin. Some diners think cleanliness should be the threshold for keeping their street permit.

New York City is reigning in outdoor dining sheds that are no longer in use. Andrew Siff reports.

“Keep them all year round if clean and safe from rats,” said Tanya Andersen.

There are questions that remain regarding the bill, like how much permits would cost, how many would be granted and what the dates are for a new seasonal policy. That all still has yet to be ironed out.

Council Member Marjorie Velázquez, the city lawmaker who sponsored the seasonal bill and the chair of the consumer and worker protection committee, said that “I look forward to our businesses benefiting from a carefully curated plan once rolled out.”

No one from the mayor’s office or City Council would indicate on camera what sensitive details still had to be worked out.


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