NYC Council passes permanent outdoor dining legislation with new rules

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By Dan Sears

The popular pandemic-era outdoor dining program was made permanent by the City Council on Thursday — but it comes with new rules.

The program, which will be overseen by the City Department of Transportation, will allow roadway cafes from April to November. They will also require a four-year permit that will cost $1,050. Up until now, dining sheds have been allowed year-round, and restaurants have not paid to use the street space.

Sidewalk seating will be allowed year-round with proper permits, which will also be issued for four years at a time.

In a statement celebrating the passing of the bill, Mayor Eric Adams said the new rules address concerns of abandoned sheds while keeping alive a program that has been credited with saving the restaurant industry.

“The temporary program saved 100,000 jobs, kept restaurants afloat during the peak of the pandemic, and brought new energy and excitement to our streets and sidewalks. But it wasn’t perfect — too many sheds were abandoned and left to rot and too few lived up to our vision of what our streets should look like,” Adams said.

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The bill, which was sponsored by Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez, was passed just two days after a New York Supreme Judge ruled that the mayor could no longer keep passing the series of emergency orders that allowed the program to continue from its start in 2020.

“Outdoor dining has been embraced as a creative solution to address the economic crisis,” Velázquez said in a statement. “We have spent the past year negotiating and modifying the bill to be as inclusive and equitable as possible, meeting the needs of the different types of restaurants and eateries across our city. This was not a one-size-fits-all bill, and that’s the beauty of it.”

Opponents of the legislation had previously filed a series of lawsuits saying outdoor dining invites noise and congestion, and poses unneeded obstacles to New Yorkers with disabilities.

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