Restaurant Law Blog

Monday, June 24, 2013

Applying for Your Sidewalk Café Permit

Outdoor seating in New York City has the ability to draw large crowds when the weather gets warm, so it is no surprise that as the summer approaches, more clients contact our offices inquiring about how to get sidewalk café permits for their restaurants. Before applying for your sidewalk café permit, there are several things you should consider.

I. Do I Need a Sidewalk Café Permit?

A sidewalk café permit is only necessary if your outdoor seating will be located on a portion of the public sidewalk. Thus, if outdoor seating is placed on an elevated platform that is part of the restaurant’s private property, a sidewalk café permit need not be obtained.

II. What About Zoning Laws?

Depending on the location of your restaurant, New York City zoning laws may prohibit certain (or all) types of sidewalk cafés. You can confirm whether your restaurant is zoned for a sidewalk café at

In addition to compliance with the applicable zoning laws, you must also make sure there is enough room for your sidewalk café. The distance from the property line to the curb must be at least 12 feet wide.

The Department of Consumer Affairs will not license your sidewalk café if it fails to meet zoning or measurement requirements.

III. What are the Different Types of Sidewalk Cafes?

1. Enclosed sidewalk café – enclosed cafés constructed of mostly light materials, such as glass, plastic, or lightweight material.

2. Unenclosed sidewalk café – unenclosed cafés containing removable tables and chairs

3. Small unenclosed sidewalk café – unenclosed cafés with no more than a single row of tables and chairs, occupying no more than 4 feet x 6 inches of the sidewalk

IV. Preparing Your Application for Submission

A.) Documents Needed

In addition to the Department of Consumer Affairs’ License Application, you must also submit numerous other documents to gain approval for your permit. These documents include: Certificate of Incorporation or Certificate of Authority to Conduct Business in New York; Sales Tax Identification Number; Food Service Establishment Permit; scale drawings of the proposed sidewalk café; personal and property liability insurance; and more.

B.) Liquor Licensing

If you plan to serve alcohol at the sidewalk café, you may have to get approval from the State Liquor Authority, even if the restaurant is already licensed.

C.) Fees

Fees for your sidewalk café permit vary based on what type of sidewalk café you are applying for and the location of the café.

i.) Two-Year License Fee: $510

ii.) Fee for starting, renewing, or assigning DCA consent for all sidewalk café types: $445

iii.) Consent Fees for sidewalk space to be paid each year. This fee varies based on location and square footage. Please see the website to determine your fee:

iv.) Plan Review Fee for Unenclosed and Small Unenclosed Sidewalk Café: $310

v.) Security Deposit for Unenclosed Sidewalk Café and Small Unenclosed: $1500

vi.) Security Deposit for Enclosed Sidewalk Café: $4000

vii.) City Planning Fee for Enclosed Sidewalk Café Applicants: $55 per seat, with $1,360 minimum

V. Plan Ahead

Once your full application is submitted with all supporting documents, it can take up to 144 days to receive your license for an unenclosed or small unenclosed sidewalk café, and up to 165 days for an enclosed sidewalk café.

Plan ahead! Apply early so that your sidewalk café will be open in time for the next spring season!

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