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NYC shares new rules for outdoor dining this winter

The popular Open Restaurants program will now officially be with us for the next 12 months.

Will Gleason
Written by
Will Gleason

Throughout our summer (and now autumn) of outdoor dining, there’s been one big, nagging question in the back of most New Yorkers' heads: So… what’s going to happen when the weather gets cold?

Well, we came a lot closer to answering that question today with the City Council voting on legislation that will make NYC’s popular al fresco dining program permanent. (Lawmakers approved the bill 46 to 2.) That bill makes sure that the program will continue until September, 2021.

“We commend the City Council for passing legislation extending the critically important, temporary outdoor dining program for one year and allowing the use of heat lamps to keep customers warm during the colder months,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance in a statement. “Outdoor dining has been monumental to reviving thousands of struggling restaurants able to avail themselves of the program, protecting jobs, and returning a sense of vibrancy to our neighborhoods.”

Also announced this week were some new regulations that provide a clearer view of what that dining experience will look like. Participants in the city’s Open Restaurants program interested in providing heating for customers in outdoor dining areas will now have the following three options: Electric radiant heaters (allowed on sidewalk and road seating), natural gas radiant heaters (allowed on sidewalks only) and portable heaters fueled by propane (only allowed on sidewalks and regulated by the fire department.)

Raucous bonfires in which diners ritualistically toss physical representations of this woebegotten year, however, are not an option. 

The new guidance means that not every restaurant in NYC will have to resort to installing space bubbles for their guests. It also means, however, that we should all start investing in some solid “going out” blankets ASAP.

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