DOT Says Dining Sheds ‘Not Envisioned’ in Permanent Open Restaurants Plan Expected in 2023

By Carol Tannenhauser

New York City is in the process of determining what its permanent Open Restaurants program — and, so, its streets and sidewalks — will look like after July, when the legislation that extended the program for a year runs out.

One thing seemed clear at a City Council hearing on the subject on February 8th: the dining sheds that New Yorkers both love and hate will be gone.

“I can only hope!” wrote the Upper West Sider who sent us this tip. “No more noise, rats and traffic tie-ups.”

“I fell in love with them,” another local said. “After dining in one, I didn’t want to go home.”

“’We don’t envision sheds in the permanent program,'” director Julie Schipper, from the Department of Transportation, testified at the hearing, according to the New York Post. “‘What would be in the roadway [are] barriers and tents or umbrellas, but not these full houses that you’re seeing in the street.”

“Schipper said that the DOT’s program — which would replace emergency measures adopted amid the pandemic — is really being planned for a post-COVID scenario, where you can dine outside when that feels nice and comfortable, but you won’t need to be in a house on the street.”

She added that existing sheds would not be allowed to stay. “We will not be grandfathering in any of the restaurants and their current structures right now.'”

“It’s terrible,” said the owner of a local wine bar with a substantial shed. “Those buildings are a lifesaver. You can’t imagine the difference they make. They allow you to survive and give people jobs and to pay higher wages. And people love them. It’d be a shame to tear them down. But, look, if we have to, we’ll do it. It’ll mean a shorter length of time to be open, but as long as they let us keep the outside seats, I can’t complain. That’s half a loaf of bread. I’ll take half a loaf.”

Another major change is that the Open Restaurants program will be offered citywide. “‘By expanding the program to restaurants in all parts of the city and providing a new roadway seating option, the program will particularly help businesses in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color,’ said Ydanis Rodriguez, commissioner of the city Department of Transportation,” Crain’s reported.

Mayor Bill de Blasio launched Open Restaurants in June, 2020, allowing restaurants to expand onto sidewalks and into parking spaces, to help them survive when indoor dining was shut down.

“In New York City, the Department of Transportation managed the scheme, converting 8,550 parking spaces into street seating, and Mayor Bill de Blasio claimed the effort saved some 100,000 jobs,” amNY reported.

In July, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation extending the program for another year. Now, in the six months before that deadline is reached, the city is engaged in “public outreach…to inform the future design rules for the permanent Open Restaurants program,” it said, in a press release.

The following is the city’s current vision for the permanent program.

DOT expects the permanent Open Restaurants program to be implemented in 2023.

FOOD, NEWS, OUTDOORS | 42 comments | permalink
    1. ben says:

      “No more noise, rats and traffic tie-ups.” Hahahaha how naive. All of these things existed long before dining sheds and they will persist long after the sheds are torn down.

      • Roger Lesson says:

        While noise and rodents and traffic are synonymous with NYC living the increase in all three has been apparent and become abhorrent. We never had serious noise issues before the outdoor dining was permitted and come spring it will be another long 7 months of nightly music from the street because the restaurant cares more about their business than the neighborhood.

    2. UWSRachel says:

      Hopefully included in the plan are restrictions on how much space can be taken up on both the road way and side walk… to prevent restaurants practically taking over a city block a la Cafe Luxembourg and Arte Cafe. Absolutely absurd, they never needed that much space.

      • Jk says:

        Completely agree! I live on the same block as cafe Luxembourg, and the waiter has literally dropped silverware on my foot and they never apologize. I’m a pedestrian trying to walk through a public sidewalk! The sidewalk was not meant to be a restaurant. Enough NYC!

      • Erin says:

        I love the Cafe Luxembourg space and I live on that block. I would love to have it there forever.

    3. Boris says:

      Restaurants who just happen to be in a location where their street frontage does not permit in-street dining are at a serious competitive disadvantage. This issue has not been adequately addressed, but needs to be for the longterm health of ALL restaurants. Used to be that corners were considered prime locations but if you have a bus stop on your avenue side and a fire hydrant on your street side, you’re getting screwed. And then there are restaurants who front turn lanes making in-street dining impossible.

      • Don Kedick says:

        Sounds like some restaurants had a competitive advantage before. Why is it a problem that different ones have an advantage now?

        • Boris says:

          A restaurant on a corner likely paid higher rent than a restaurant midblock. They paid for their competitive advantage. Now, it’s more likely that a midblock restaurant can have in-street dining than one on the corner that might face a turn lane, crosswalk, hydrant, or bus stop. Those situations weren’t a factor before restaurants expanded into the street.

    4. Bronx Boy says:

      Gah — who asked her?

      The sheds could use some improvements (rat-proofing, for instance), but they let the restaurants make a buck and keep the streets lively at night, which is good for security.

      NYC restaurants are one thing that differentiates us, we should keep them. Compensate for the displaced parking by requiring new buildings to have underground garage space.

      • Brandon says:

        The restaurants made a buck before COVID. If we get back to normal inside dining why would they be unable to do on as they did prior to the pandemic?

        • Carlos says:

          I would consider keeping the sheds if there were rules about the quality and maintenance of them. Also, restaurants should have to pay some fee for them – with all of the empty storefronts around here, restaurants should not be getting all of this extra space free.

          They were a great idea to keep restaurants afloat during the heart of covid. Now they need to be rethought.

    5. nycityny says:

      I can’t imagine eating in the street without a structure beneath. The curb area is not flat (so food will slide off the table) and the gutter isn’t very a appetizing locale.

      • Anon says:

        It also won’t be wheelchair accessible unless you happen to be on the corner and have a cut out. Isn’t that illegal — building something only the able bodied can use?

        • Huh says:

          ADA accessibility means you have to have some suitable areas. A restaurant may have two levels connected by stairs. Since one level is accessible there’s no problem with the second level. Remember also that curb cuts or ramps are not the only thing to consider in making things accessible. Table heights and aisle space etc matter too. And that’s just for wheelchair accessibility.

        • UWSRachel says:

          Anon- I wonder if you’ve considered that the sidewalks are not accessible as they are now, with restaurants literally taking up sidewalk space and dining sheds. It’s almost impossible to walk in a single file line through these restaurants, imagine being in a wheelchair? ADA accessibility was never a consideration, which is typical of this city… but gives even more reason for the excessive outdoor dining spaces to be removed.

    6. UWS-er says:

      Outdoor dining was initially a way for people to dine safely outdoors. However, many of the outdoor structures are now basically enclosed indoor dining which undermines the original objective of allowing people to dine safely with minimal risk of covid exposure. There should be some basic guidelines for outdoor dining structures, rather than the free for all that currently exists.

      • MaryC says:

        Most of the sheds and sidewalk cafes I see now are fully enclosed with sealed windows.
        Any plan going forward should have a plan for regular inspections to ensure compliance.
        Charge a reasonable fee for permits that would cover These extra inspection costs. Then fine and if necessary revoke permits of those who abuse the privilege .
        Outdoor dining can be nice but when it’s such a free for all, it will only get worse

    7. Katherine says:

      Sick of these eyesores. I’m all for sidewalk dining, but tables only.

    8. Erica says:

      Yes! Glad that we’ll to continue to have outdoor dining options and lively streets. 😊

    9. Dani says:

      Is a tent really that different and better looking than a shed?

    10. Steve Downey says:

      To me, the question is, what is the fair price for converting the sidewalk space to restaurant space? We, the city, own that space. We can rent it to the restaurants, of course, but at a fair price.

    11. Elizabeth says:

      I love the sheds. They make the streets feel alive. I’ll be sad to see them go.

    12. denton says:

      I’m glad to hear that we will be post-Covid in 2023! I wonder what they know that we don’t.

      • Mike says:

        We’re pretty much post-Covid now. Even the blue state governors are onboard. Amazing what lousy poll numbers can do!

    13. Josh P. says:

      Outdoor dining is great and we should fight to preserve it.

    14. rteplow says:

      I love the outdoor dining and hope it continues, with safety restrictions in place. I also hope that in exchange for being able to have an outdoor shed the restaurant has to pay its staff a decent wage..

    15. Jeff says:

      I pass by these all the time and I have yet to see one that is particularly noisy. What I don’t understand is who gets to decide what the future rules will be. “We don’t envision……..”. Who is “we”?

    16. UWSConcerned says:

      It would be unfortunate if all of the sheds need to go. Some really look nice and provide a great dinning alternative more akin to what you see in many European cities. Some certainly need to go though. For example, the shed at Dakota Bar looks like an abandoned shack. The owners should be embarrassed for maintaining such an eyesore in such a beautiful neighborhood. I think the abysmal state of that shed and others like it speaks volumes as to how much the owners actually care about our neighborhood.

    17. Tom says:

      Already starting to see abandoned sheds around town. Only going to get worse. Who will pay to have them removed and when?

    18. Peter says:

      I like the shreds and think that many are a positive addition to the city. They make more space available for social gathering vs. cars. They make it possible to be outdoors for more of the year. They’re great for small businesses. And they’re safer than just sitting in the street adjacent to traffic. Should they be regulated to meet certain safety and accessibility requirements? Should they factor into property taxes? Absolutely. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water here and get rid of a good thing because a few need to be changed and because a few cranks have nothing better to do than complain.

    19. young_man! says:

      Unsafe, unsanitary, rat and insect breeding eyesores. NYC helped restaurants when they needed help, restaurants are now full and now is time to get rid of these slapped together sheds.

      Just another example of you giving someone an inch and they take a mile.

    20. Wayne Z. says:

      I look forward to the day when these shacks get taken down. They’re not safe structures positioned as they are inches away from traffic. And they’re unsanitary spaces completely exposed to any rodent or insect looking to score a few crumbs food. The shacks served their purpose to avert a city-wide restaurant bankruptcy. The time has come to try to make the city a little less sloppy than it currently is.

    21. Peter says:

      Sidewalk tables as before, fine. Those sheds, though, are eyesores. Let’s get rid of them–and while we’re at it, all the scaffolding too that never comes down for years on end. Block after block of my formerly beautiful city looks like a shantytown these days.

    22. George says:

      Expand the sidewalks! And just have tables on the sidewalk.

    23. ME says:

      HALLELUJAH!

    24. BEN says:

      Doing away with the sheds bad for the UWS, SURVIVING RESTAURANTS WILL GO OUT OF BUSINESS.

    25. tnic says:

      Please dear city/DOT — please enlist qualified design professionals to study this and provide effective standards, perhaps even toolkits, that help restaurants optimize the use of the spaces and that, in the words of one famed architect, will make “the good easy and the bad difficult”.

      We can’t recreate Paris overnight, but we can do better.

    26. Andrea says:

      Doesn’t the DOT have enough on its plate (so to speak)? Instead of taking on the additional burden of creating protocols for restaurants, why doesn’t it establish essential rules for bicycle safety on our streets and sidewalks? This is a pressing transportation problem all over the City with the burgeoning numbers of bicycles including electric ones and mopeds. If the city council is fine taking on private enterprise pay attention to the horse drawn carriage industry that has long created traffic and pedestrian safety issues throughout midtown! TRANSPORTATION is in the name of DOT. Its focus needs to be on transportation and public safety!!

    27. Ellen says:

      I love the dining cottages! I always want a bit of fresh air, even in the winter, and the dining cottages are a perfect combination of heat and outdoor space for me. Personally, I welcome any change that makes the city more lively and humane — less focused on cars and more focused on community. That’s what makes us happy, after all, and fills our lives with rich joy!

    28. Carol says:

      I love outdoor dining….but not in the street! A semi-truck passing by too close to where I’ve been sitting is too close for me. Sidewalks and umbrellas, yes….on the street, no. Please consider how we considered the restaurants in need by implementing the sheds, now consider we’re getting back to normal AND hopefully safety.

    29. JT says:

      I passed a huge outdoor restaurant shed on Columbus Avenue today and noticed that it is entirely closed in with two huge air conditioners and a sign saying it is air conditioned. How is that helping anyone who don’t want to dine indoors? It is just giving the restaurant more free table space. That should absolutely not be allowed.