Required Permits & Licenses

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.  Depending on the type of establishment, the licensing, permit and certificate requirements can vary drastically and the failure to obtain any one of them can prove fatal to a new hospitality business.  Two of the most common permits in New York City include:

Types of Food Service Permits in New York City

i.          Health Department Permit

To operate a food service establishment in the City of New York you must obtain a food service establishment 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.  The failure to obtain a permit will likely result in your establishment being closed by the NYC Department of Health and violators could be subject to criminal penalties

To qualify for a food service establishment permit, 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 onsite at all open times.

ii.         Sidewalk Café Permits

The Department of Consumer Affairs issues sidewalk cafe permits to restaurants and other food service establishments operating in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx.  There are three types of sidewalk cafe permits:  (1) enclosed cafe, (2) unenclosed cafe, and (3) small unenclosed cafe.  In determining whether an establishment qualifies for a sidewalk permit, pedestrian traffic must be considered as well as the 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 an establishment.  Of note, an appearance before the local community board is often required because public opinion is a critical component of any community's board's decision on whether to support or reject an 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.]

If you are in the process of applying for any license, permit or certificate for your restaurant, bar, lounge or nightclub in New York, please call DiPasquale & Summers for a free consultation.

Applying for Your Sidewalk Café Permit
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