Portable Heaters and Sidewalk Cafés

The arrival of spring for many restauranteers means dining outside at sidewalk cafés in pleasant, crisp spring temperatures.  However, spring weather is notoriously fickle, and some days are simply frigid.  Portable heaters are essential for sidewalk cafes on those days, but to install one, you’ll need the Fire Department’s blessing first.  What’s involved in getting a portable heater?

Per the FDNY, only unenclosed (open air) licensed sidewalk cafés are eligible to have portable heaters.  Propane portable heaters aren’t allowed, but natural gas ones are.  In order to install a heater, you must you must have a licensed engineer or architect draft up relevant plans and apply for a permit from the Department of Buildings (DOB) to install both the heater and any accompanying hardware.  Once the DOB has approved your proposed plans, you must apply for an Open Flame permit from the FDNY, which the FDNY will issue after inspecting your heaters and café.  At least one staff member must pass a FDNY Certificate of Fitness designating him/her as the person responsible for maintaining the heater.

Heaters may only be used 8am to midnight Monday to Thursday, 8am to 1am Friday and Saturday, and noon to midnight Sunday.