New bill seeks to bring back propane heaters for outdoor dining in NYC

November 30, 2021

Image courtesy of Bubby’s

New York City Council Member Keith Powers last week introduced legislation that would allow the ongoing use of propane heaters for outdoor restaurant dining. The heaters, given the green light last year but banned again in October, helped restaurants stay afloat last winter by keeping diners cozy at Covid-safe outdoor tables.

Just over a year ago, during the height of the Covid pandemic, the city made year-round outdoor dining permanent, lifting a ban on portable propane heaters in order to make safe outdoor dining comfortable for New Yorkers during winter’s chilly days, as 6sqft previously reported. The move was a huge success, and for many restaurants, a lifesaver.

This year, in October, the use of portable propane heaters was taken off the table once again. While outdoor dining wasn’t questioned, the ban on heaters was apparently made in the name of fire safety.

Powers’ bill introduced last week would amend the city’s fire code to permit the “outdoor use of portable gas-fueled heating devices.” The summary of the legislation says the bill would “expand the scope of authorized equipment to include portable heating devices fueled by liquefied petroleum gas, also known as propane” and “require safety precautions related to the operation and handling of such devices.”

“Throughout the pandemic, outdoor dining has been one of the most successful and innovative measures to support local restaurants and allow New Yorkers to safely socialize with one another,” Powers said in a statement.

“The use of propane heaters has played a quintessential role in that success, particularly during the colder months. With winter on the horizon, COVID-19 cases increasing, and restaurants still desperately in need of support, this legislation will ensure the survival of local eateries, strengthen small businesses, and keep New Yorkers safe.”

Mayor-elect Eric Adams came out in support of propane heater use, asking Mayor Bill de Blasio to reconsider his decision to ban propane heaters at restaurants in a joint letter sent earlier this month.

Restaurant organizations have been fighting to see the heaters return, saying that Powers’ bill helps restaurant recovery by allowing them to operate at full capacity in colder months. According to the NYC Hospitality Alliance, the outdoor dining program has kept over 11,000 dining establishments alive and saved over 100,000 restaurant jobs. The Alliance says that according to the Fire Department, there were no fires or injuries last year from propane heater use.

“Our city’s restaurant industry still has a long road to recovery, and as the temperature drops, propane heaters are essential to keep customers warm while dining outdoors this winter,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of NYC Hospitality Alliance, said.

“We commend Council Member Keith Powers for introducing legislation to reinstate the safe use of propane heaters, and thank Mayor-elect Eric Adams for supporting this policy that will aid in the small businesses recovery, while allowing people to enjoy outdoor dining during the colder months.”


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