The city has issued its clearest guidance to date to restaurants for heaters that can be used for outdoor dining.
According to the city, programs in the city's Open Restaurants program have three options for outdoor dining. Electric heaters, natural gas heaters and portable heaters fueled by propane will be allowed on sidewalks – but only electric heaters will be allowed for restaurants with seating on roadways.
The city says the electric and natural gas heaters will be regulated by the Department of Buildings, and the portable propane heaters will be regulated by the FDNY.
Restaurants with private outdoor dining spaces, which are not covered under the Open Restaurants program, can use heating devices that fall within FDNY and/or DOB guidelines.
The Open Restaurants program was formed as a way to help restaurants who have not been able to welcome diners indoors since mid-March due to the pandemic. It enables restaurants that do not normally have outdoor seating to use sidewalks and, in some cases, street space in front of their buildings as seating space. The city announced that the program would become a year-round program at the end of last month.
However, it is unclear if the heaters will be enough to keep customers outside as the weather gets colder.
The restaurant industry is facing its own crisis amid the crisis of the pandemic. The state comptroller said earlier this month that as many as half of the city's restaurants could close in the next six months.
Indoor dining in the city resumed on September 30 for the first time in more than six months. But due to safety measures aimed at reducing the spread of coronavirus, restaurants must abide by a 25 percent capacity rule, which some owners have said is not sustainable.
And indoor dining was also prohibited again last week in areas experiencing spikes in their coronavirus test positivity rate. In areas with the biggest spikes, outdoor dining was also restricted or prohibited completely.