NEW YORK — New York City restaurants will not be allowed to use propane heaters to warm their outdoor dining spaces this coming winter, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday, citing concerns about fire safety and sustainability.
Many five borough eateries and bars invested in propane heaters for their outdoor dining areas last year after the city temporarily lifted its ban on the devices amid the pandemic-fueled pause on indoor dining. A spokesperson for de Blasio on Wednesday, however, confirmed that the ban would be phased back in.
What You Need To Know
- New York City will no longer allow restaurants to use propane heaters to warm their outdoor dining spaces
- The city temporarily lifted the ban last year so bars and restaurants could heat their outdoor setups while indoor dining was on pause
- Mayor Bill de Blasio said the decision to reinstate the ban came down to fire safety and sustainability issues
- The NYC Hospitality Alliance, which represents thousands of New York City restaurants and bars, said the reinstatement would deal a "blow" to eateries trying to recover from the pandemic
“Look, I really listened to the Fire Department. They’re the experts on health and safety when it comes to propane,” the mayor explained at his daily briefing Thursday morning. “[The] Fire Department feels strongly, and I agree with them: propane needs to be phased out.”
"Open Restaurants" participants that shelled out money for propane heaters last year will be eligible to receive grants of up to $5,000 from the city to buy electric and natural gas heaters ahead of the winter dining season, the NYC Hospitality Alliance — which represents thousands of New York City eateries — noted in a press release.
But the alliance denounced the city’s decision as a “blow to restaurants hoping to use propane heaters again as they’re still trying to recover from the pandemic,” adding that there were “no reported safety incidents” involving the heaters last year.
James Mallios, the managing partner of Manhattan restaurant Amali, is now figuring out the best options when it comes to keeping his outdoor patrons warn this winter.
“After I talk to you and run down to Home Depot and see that all the electric heaters are sold out, I’ll figure out how to rent a car and drive down to Louisiana to buy $1,500 electric heaters that have one-eighth the strength of the propane heaters,” Mallios told NY1 reporter Stef Manisero.
Mallios said, on any given day, between 25% to 50% of the restaurant’s revenue comes from outdoor seating.
The Fire Department says that, last winter, when propane heating was allowed, there were no reported incidents involving propane.
Mallios says, after all the struggles of the pandemic, the decision by the city is yet another blow.
“We can have them in Nassau and Westchester and LA and Suffolk, but we can’t have it in NYC?” he said.
When asked what Amali means to him, it took him a few minutes to find the words.
“They call it the house, you know, like front of the house, back of the house, they call it the house,” Mallios said. “And I think for all of us who worked through the pandemic and all those challenges, house doesn’t cut it. Home is the word.”
While de Blasio on Thursday acknowledged that the city had a “good experience” allowing restaurants and bars to use propane heaters last winter, he said the ban was only lifted because “everything was on an emergency footing.”
“Now that we’re talking about a long-term approach — outdoor dining has been an amazing success; I want it to be part of the future New York City for years to come — but we now have to make sure it is sustainable, it is safe, it’s done the right way,” he said. “So we’re giving the restaurants the next month to do that. We are giving financial support.”
“They know that the investment they make for a new solution is going to be a permanent investment they can rely on,” he added. “So, it’s about safety, and it’s about sustainability.”