While the use of electric heaters was previously permitted to some extent, restaurant owners now have access to detailed instructions on how to use propane and gas-fueled heaters, as well. Electric heaters can be used for sidewalk and roadside seating, but propane and gas heaters are limited to the sidewalk and other ground-level seating, including backyard seats and seating in parking lots, as previously suggested by the city.
Restaurant owners will need to complete an attestation form and email it to the FDNY to be able to use the propane heaters. The FDNY says that restaurants will receive two emails — one immediately after the application has been submitted, and a second one that will come after one business day — that will authorize restaurants to use the heaters.
This FDNY form also has a requirement that at least one restaurant employee obtain a certificate of fitness within three weeks of filing that attestation, to supervise the use of these types of heaters.
The use of these propane heaters comes with several caveats. Most propane heaters are fueled by 20-pound containers, and these heaters cannot be used on rooftops, terraces, balconies, and ground-level areas that can only be accessed through a building. For instance, if a restaurant’s backyard can only be accessed through a building, and does not have a separate outside entrance, the 20-pound containers cannot be used. Heaters with one-pound containers can still be used in these areas.
Restaurants looking to store propane containers on-site for heating use will need to get a separate permit from the FDNY, as well.
The move to allow the use of propane heaters outside comes in conjunction with the city’s decision to make outdoor dining a permanent fixture in NYC. The city unveiled those plans in late September with cold weather approaching, and announced at the time that the guidelines for the use of heaters would come out at the end of the month.
In recent weeks — with the weather getting colder every day — restaurateurs had grown increasingly frustrated that the guidelines had not been released. Some already purchased propane heaters in the hope that the approval would come soon, while many others are still waiting on deliveries due to a massive spike in demand.
UPDATE: This post has been updated with comments from the FDNY.