Opening a restaurant in New York City can be extremely complex as there are a myriad of licenses, permits and certificates that need to be obtained. Identifying what licenses and permits will need is daunting and the application process can be much harder. Depending on the type of establishment, the licensing, permit and certificate requirements can vary drastically and if you fail to obtain the proper documents your restaurant can be closed. While we are not able to discuss each license or permit in depth here, allow us to discuss the most common.
i. Health Department Permits
To operate a food service establishment in the City of New York you must obtain a food service permit from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. Once the application is filed, a pre-opening inspection of your restaurant will need to be conducted roughly twenty-one days prior to your restaurant’s scheduled opening. The failure to obtain a permit or have a pre-opening inspection conducted will result in your establishment being closed and you could be subject to criminal penalties.
To qualify for a food service permit, all restaurant supervisors and managers are required to attend a food protection course and be certified as having completed the course successfully. Thereafter, a supervisor or manager possessing this certification must remain on premises at all open times.
ii. Sidewalk Café Permits
The Department of Consumer Affairs also issues sidewalk cafe permits to restaurants in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx. There are three types of sidewalk cafe permits, those being: (a) enclosed cafe, (b) unenclosed cafe, and (c) small unenclosed cafe. In determining whether your establishment qualifies for a sidewalk permit, pedestrian traffic must be considered as well as your anticipated café’s distance from trees, fire hydrants and other obstructions. The sidewalk must be large enough to allow for a three foot service aisle as well as an additional eight feet separating the outer edge of the cafe from the curb.
The fee for a sidewalk cafe permit is determined by the size of the café and the location of your establishment. You are required to place your local community board on notice of the application and they will schedule your request for a hearing before one of their committees. Be prepared for this hearing and if possible, first meet with members of your community to gauge their position on your application. Public opinion is heavily considered by community boards when making their decision on whether to support or reject your application. A sidewalk cafe permit is renewable every two years.
[Note: there are several ‘blackout’ sections in New York City where sidewalk cafes are prohibited. These include: Manhattan: Bleecker Street - from Bank Street to Mercer Street; Central Park South - from Fifth Avenue to Sixth Avenue; Greenwich Avenue; Lincoln Square District; Lower Manhattan District (except State, Whitehall, or Chambers streets and Broadway); Mulberry Street Mall; Nassau Street Mall; Park Avenue South and Park Avenue - from 31st Street to 38th Street; United Nations Development District; Brooklyn: Fulton Street Mall (Enclosed cafés allowed along DeKalb Avenue); Sheepshead Bay District; Queens: Far Rockaway Beach 20th Street. Less severe restrictions apply to several other locations in the City.
iii. Cabaret Licenses
A Cabaret License is required for any restaurant or bar that will permit and encourage dancing. The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs issues Cabaret Licenses but before an application for a license can be filed, several prerequisites need to be met:
(1) An inspection is required before submitting your application. If the inspection results are negative, you will be advised of the issues to be corrected and upon correction, the premises can be re-inspected.
(2) The Department of Consumer Affairs requires a pre-application inspection to be conducted by the Department of Buildings or a licensed electrician. The inspection must demonstrate that the premises complies with all electrical building codes.
(3) Prior to approving your application the Department of Consumer Affairs will check the Environmental Control Board’s records to see if there are any outstanding violations. Until you resolve these violations, your application will not be approved.
If you are in the process of applying for any license, permit or certificate for your Restaurant, Bar, Tavern or Nightclub in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx, please call the DiPasquale Law Group for a free consultation.
Please call Attorney James DiPasquale at (646) 343-4607, for a free consultation.
DIPASQUALE LAW GROUP
James D. DiPasquale, Principal