The finalized rules for outdoor dining

The city released its rules for Dining Out NYC, the new name for the permanent outdoor dining program. This will cover the requirements for how sidewalk and roadway cafes are designed, built and operated. The official rules from NYC DOT are here, but here goes with a summary:

The rules are effective as of March 3 so I would expect we will see some changes — though I am curious to see how quickly the rules will be enforced.

Restaurants will have to pay a fee based on the square footage of their cafe area. In our zone, the roadway annual fee rate is $8 per square foot and the sidewalk annual fee rate is $10 per square foot.

Enclosed cafes, such as the ones at the Odeon, Serafina and Locanda Verde, will no longer be permitted. Instead, those will have to be converted to open-air cafes. (I will reiterate my rant about the permanent sidewalk cafe at Bluestone Lane, which was somehow permitted many generations ago and has never been removed. It drives me nuts, as does the picture below, where staff just left the base of umbrellas in the middle of the tiny bit of sidewalk we have left. I will also note that while some of these have been great for diners, a lot — like Serafina and Zona Tribeca — have tried to encroach ever MORE on the sidewalk by adding seating and planters outside their sheds, or having both sidewalk cafes AND curbside cafes.)

Roadway cafes will have to be removed from November 30 to March 31.

The new rules are set up to be interactive for restaurant owners, so if you are into it, you can click through. But here are some points:

  • Sidewalk cafes must preserve 50 percent of the sidewalk width for pedestrians or 8 feet, whichever is greater.
  • All roadway cafes must meet ADA requirements. Flooring is not required, but where it is not used you will need to provide an ADA-compliant ramp to allow access to the roadway cafe.
  • Tables and chairs must be easily removable and lightweight.
  • Barriers are required on all sides of the roadway cafe except along the sidewalk and must be filled with water only, so they weigh 150 pounds per linear foot. The minimum height is 30 inches and the maximum height is 42 inches, not including any plantings.
  • There are specific rules about offsets — where a cafe setup can be located to avoid street signs, crosswalks, trees, subway entrances. The image above gives you a sense.
  • Hours are 8a to midnight every day except Sunday, which is 10a to midnight.



  1. The ones at Zona are particularly gross. A magnet for rats and this morning on an early walk with the dog I saw someone SLEEPING inside one of them on top several dining tables pushed together.

    • Andy, I totally agree disgusting. It needs to go. They had it up long enough. I loved when they were all open in the summer time. Its an eyesore for the neighborhood.

  2. Agreed about Zona! On top of that, they are never full so it just sits there as an additional storage unit. Such an eyesore.

  3. I applaud the changes. Walker’s IS PARTICULARLY RIDICULOUS OFFENDER – two sidewalks and forces people to walk on grates to pass by. PLEASE ENFORCE THIS RULE.

  4. Good for NYC. Many sheds have taken over sidewalks – Walkers, Bubbys for example. Will be interesting to see if real changes

  5. At One White a single person can walk the sidewalk sideways.

  6. Thank you for writing about these two egregious examples that clearly think they can do whatever they want. Zona has been cited numerous times by DOT for those disgusting boxes that they imposed on the neighborhood which are flaunting all of the rules including the narrow corridor that is about 4 1/2 ft (when it should be 8) that we have to walk through. Why are they still up?
    I just wrote a DOT complaint for Bluestone- they have actually drilled those umbrella bases into the sidewalk with not warning for people walking at night as they dangerously leave the 3 foot high, black bases in the sidewalk. They too take up way more sidewalk space than permitted. They have an outdoor cafe. They should not have tables, umbrellas and big signage on the sidewalk. Better enforcement and heavy fines for violators are needed.

  7. Personally I think a reset is needed. Outdoor dining shed was a pandemic measure that was part experimental and meant to be temporary. But restaurants caught on quickly and rushed to abuse the privilege and obviously didn’t think it was going to end.
    Belle Reve built this addition to the building and made it look like it was always part of the building, they also had a shed right outside. Anejo has outdoor sheds on Walker (which hasn’t been used for almost a year, filled with trash) and Church as well as tables outside the restaurant. I am curious to see how the city can enforce the rule without the restaurants screaming and kicking.
    But as the counterfeit bazaar finally eradicated ( almost) and the scaffolding of 401 Broadway gone, things are looking good, I have hope again!

      Now if the police and fire departments would just stop parking on the sidewalk! I love being a pedestrian, and having that whole space to walk on. As far as I know, sidewalks were designed for people to walk on, not be parked on, or deliver meals to…

      • Honestly that sounds like the least of the transgression. Compared to sidewalk occupation for profit. I actually have’t even noticed what you were describing, must be restricted to very specific street.

    • Yes, it’s good progress in eradicating the counterfeit bazaar. At least the “entrepreneurs” who distribute “Rolexes” and “Gucci” rarely lay out their wares on the sidewalks. (They still do it around the subway station at Canal and Broadway at night sometimes when the police are gone). Still, they stand around with their cars and find ways to sell their counterfeit junk to people. I still get harassed every time I walk through that intersection by people saying to me, “Handbags” or “Watches” etc. or waving their cheesy flyers to me. They sell out of their cars on Walker Street also (overheard by a couple “shopping” from one of them – “Oh that’s a good price for a Prada”). This is not serious enforcement if the selling continues. It’s only a partial progress, where the sidewalks are (less) obstructed. The carts and groups of sellers and customers still block sidewalks. We even had a cart parked in front of our building door blocking the entrance. It’s quite obvious that they are still illicitly selling the junk, else why would they be there with their carts? They do this right by the police.

      Still, how long will this partial enforcement last? It only lasts as long as the police are stationed around those intersections. Anyone know why the sudden surge in enforcement, which started a couple of months ago?