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I have a restaurant in SoHo. Can I do outdoor grilling on the sidewalk in my outdoor seating area?

Especially at a time where outdoor dining is preferable to indoor for many New Yorkers, restaurants are looking into creative solutions to enhance the overall dining experience. However, in New York City, grilling on the sidewalk is generally not permitted by the Fire Code due to multiple fire hazards [see excerpt below] and is considered a sidewalk obstruction. In addition, any non-residential cooking in the open and on a site or yard is prohibited by the Zoning Resolution. Any non-residential entities, which includes restaurants, must cook inside of a building.

FC307.5.3 Clearance Distances

Portable outdoor barbecues shall not be stored or used within 10 feet of any combustible waste, combustible material, or any combustible building surface, including combustible roofs and decks. To the maximum extent feasible, windows, doors and other building openings within 10 feet of a barbecue in use shall be kept closed. An entrance door shall be closed immediately after entering or exiting the building while the barbecue is in use.

What about the grills at fairs, festivals, and mobile food vendors?

There are a few exceptions to non-residential outdoor grilling that are extended to mobile food vendors, street festivals, and civic events. Mobile food vendors get an exception because they are on the streets and therefore are not under the jurisdiction of the Department of Buildings and Zoning. Instead, such vendors fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health.

A restaurant owner may think that they can add a mobile “restaurant” outside of their restaurant in order to get the best of both worlds, but there are no more permits available for permanent vendors, and existing permits sold from one person to another cost large sums of money. While the Department of Health can issue temporary permits to allow for outdoor grilling, they are usually tied to a civic event rather than to onsite dining (although vendors can be for profit at the event).

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