Rules and Regulations

Resources for Restaurants

Restaurant owners and managers can find resources here for designing and building curbside or roadway dining pavilions, for locating advocacy organizations, securing financial support, and guidance on city and state regulations. The primary source for guidance on curbside dining is the Department of Transportation, but regulations for sidewalk dining come from the Department of Buildings, and regulations are enforced by the FDNY, SLA, and DSNY. Thank you to all of our partners for helping us to understand the complex landscape of regulations and policies guiding outdoor dining.

Guidelines for "Open Restaurants" and Sidewalk Dining

The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) oversees the regulations guiding restaurants who want to build curbside (roadway) dining structures. Here are links to useful NYCDOT sites regulating outside dining structures, also called “Open Restaurants.”

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Examples of Outdoor Dining

Since Spring 2020, restaurant owners have faced the crisis by experimenting with a variety of imaginative and resourceful designs for curbside and sidewalk dining pavilions.  The emerging standard includes a lean-to roof pitched toward the street, acrylic dividers to separate tables, ceiling mounted electric heaters, and transparent windbreaks on the street side.

The DOT regulations for curbside dining structures are still evolving, but as of December 2020 here are the core requirements:

  • to maintain airflow and be considered "outdoor," structures may only be enclosed on two sides (some restaurants and inspectors interpret this to mean 50%)

  • tables must be at least 6 feet apart

  • stuctures may go a maximum of 8 feet into the street, just like a parked car

  • there must be three walls on the streetside: 18 inches deep and 36 inches high

  • these walls must be weighted down with sand or earth to prevent being pushed in by snow removal vehicles (they are often used as planters)

  • roadway structures can only use electric heaters; sidewalk structures may use propane gas

  • there must be 8 feet clear on the sidewalk for unimpeded pedestrian traffic

  • electrical supply must extend from the building property, elevated above the sidewalk

  • all electrical wiring in the structure must run through regulation metal conduit

  • access from the sidewalk must meet ADA access requirements

Some creative ideas that we have observed:

  • transparent roofing to increase light and solar heat during the day

  • creating "pods" with enclosed booths for enclosed, private dining with those in you "pod"

  • leaving spaces between the vertical enclosure and the roof to increase ariflow

  • suspending acrylic dividers from the roof to save on floorspace 

  • using a QR code on each table for menus and ordering to protect servers and to prevent contagion through handheld menus

We have collected a photo album of various approaches to the design of outdoor dining pavilions:

Advocacy For Restaurants

  • New York State Latino Restaurant and Bar Association- https://nysrbla.org/

    • The NYS Latino Restaurant, Bar & Lounge Association is a non-profit organization founded for the purpose of helping Hispanic and minority businesses succeed in commerce and industry, particularly that of the food and beverage industry.

  • New York State Restaurant Coalition- https://www.nysra.org/

    • The New York State Restaurant Coalition is the trade association for New York restaurants. They work to further the business interests of restaurant owners and to provide valuable support services to members. The Association provides a platform for statewide cooperation and leadership on advocacy issues, along with resources and support to help restaurateurs succeed.

  • Independent Restaurant Coalition- https://www.saverestaurants.com/

    • The Independent Restaurant Coalition was formed by chefs and independent restaurant owners across the country who have built a grassroots movement to secure vital protections for the nation’s 500,000 independent restaurants and the more than 11 million restaurant workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

  • New York City Hospitality Alliance- https://www.thenycalliance.org/

    • The New York City Hospitality Alliance is a not-for-profit association founded in 2012 to represent and serve restaurant and nightlife establishments throughout the five boroughs.

Financial Support Opportunities

  • New York City Economic Development Corporation- https://edc.nyc/covid-19-business-relief-resource

    • The New York City Economic Development Corporation is a nonprofit corporation whose stated mission is to promote economic growth in New York City, especially through real estate development. It is the City's official economic development corporation and merged with the New York City Economic Growth Corporation in 2012.

  • New York City Business Improvement District Directory- https://www1.nyc.gov/site

    • Directory for all the BIDS in New York City.

  • The Restaurant Opportunities Center- https://rocunited.org/

    • The Restaurant Opportunities Center is a non-profit fighting to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s restaurant workforce

  • Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants (ROAR)- https://www.roarnewyork.org

    • ROAR is geared more toward helping unemployed restaurant workers, partnering with the Robin Hood to raise donations for a NYC Restaurant Employee Relief Fund.

Further Resources

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