NYC launches ‘Marketplace’ for new outdoor dining setups

Outdoor dining setup
A prototype outdoor dining setup, compatible with new regulations, at Sunday to Sunday on the Lower East Side.

New York City restaurant owners can purchase components for outdoor dining setups on a dedicated online marketplace starting Monday.

The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) on May 6 launched the Dining Out NYC Marketplace, billed as a “one-stop shop” for restaurants to connect with vendors selling components for al fresco dining compatible with the city’s permanent outdoor dining program, which was approved last year to replace the temporary COVID-era program.

Through the Marketplace, local restaurants can connect to vendors selling all manner of products, like roofing or lighting, as well as services like design, construction, and storage. Vendors can only be listed in the Marketplace if they attend a training session, pass a background check, and prove they are properly insured.

Use of the Marketplace is optional for restaurants, but the city believes it will make it easier for eateries to connect with approved vendors and build outdoor dining setups compliant with the city’s new rules, which replaced the relative free-for-all of the COVID-19 era.

“As we transition to a permanent outdoor dining program, Dining Out NYC, DOT is working to make it as seamless and as easy as possible for local businesses to participate in this program,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “Our new online Marketplace does just this by connecting restaurant owners to the resources they need to build beautiful, clean, and creative outdoor dining setups.”

Restaurants can apply for an outdoor dining license under the permanent program until Aug. 3. Restaurants with sheds left over from the temporary program have until November to take them down.

The enclosed dining sheds emblematic of COVID-era New York will be banned under the new program; instead, outdoor dining must be open-air and easily movable. They also must be wheelchair-accessible and feature drainage systems and rat-resistant barriers.

Sidewalk eateries will be allowed year-round, but those directly in the street will be barred in the winter months so the space can be used for parking. All outdoor dining setups will also be subject to community board review, plus review by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in historic districts.

The permanent program has been criticized by some restaurateurs as too onerous and expensive for eateries operating on tight margins, especially after getting used to the relaxed pandemic-era regulations. Nonetheless, the rules have been enthusiastically endorsed by the NYC Hospitality Alliance, one of the city’s most prominent trade groups for restaurants and bars.