NYC shuts down outdoor dining on streets ahead of major snowstorm

Posted On Tue, December 15, 2020 By

Posted On Tue, December 15, 2020 By In Policy, Restaurants

Photo by Eden, Janine and Jim on Flickr

Outdoor dining on New York City streets will be suspended Wednesday afternoon ahead of an impending snowstorm, the city’s Department of Sanitation announced. The “Snow Alert” issued by the DSNY says “roadway dining” must end by 2 p.m. and be shut down for the duration of the alert. The latest forecast from the National Weather Service predicts between 8 and 14 inches of snow in the city starting late afternoon on Wednesday.

The city will notify restaurants when they can reopen street seating and DSNY estimates that the Snow Alert will be over by Thursday evening, but is subject to change depending on the storm’s severity.

Last week, new winter storm guidelines were released for restaurants participating in the city’s Open Restaurants program, which allows expanded street and sidewalk seating year-round. If the city issues a Winter Operations Advisory, outdoor dining on streets can continue but restaurant owners should take some measures to keep patrons safe, like using snow sticks to increase visibility, removing snow from sidewalks, and keeping access to fire hydrants open.

If a Snow Alert is issued, which happens when one or more inches is expected, roadway dining must close at the time indicated by DSNY. While the city says restaurants must remove or secure tables and chairs set up in the street and remove electrical heaters, any barriers or structures do not have to be removed entirely for this particular storm.

But if 12 or more inches of snow is projected, the city can decide to have restaurants “remove or consolidate” any structures in the roadway to “take up as little space as possible,” making plowing easier.

It is illegal for property owners to push snow into the street as it blocks snow clearing operations. According to DSNY, “snow may be moved against the building, to the curb line, or areas on private property.”

When asked during a press conference on Monday about some restaurants having to remove or secure their outdoor dining set up, Mayor Bill de Blasio said “each restaurant’s in a different situation.”

“For some, that’s a lot harder than for others,” the mayor said. “But we also want to be clear that when we expect major snow it’s in their interest in everyone’s interest to clear away as much of their equipment as possible to facilitate the snow cleaning and protect their equipment.”

The temporary suspension of outdoor dining on city streets comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo shut down indoor dining on Monday. On Friday, Cuomo called the city’s density a “liability” and cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated warnings about indoor dining as reasons to shut it down. The governor said indoor dining would end in New York City if the hospitalization rate did not stabilize over five days.

“In New York City, you put the CDC caution on indoor dining, together with the rate of transmission and the density and the crowding. That is a bad situation,” Cuomo said during a press conference. “The hospitalizations have continued to increase in New York City. We said that we would watch it. If the hospital rate didn’t stabilize, we would close indoor dining. It has not.”


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