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Bundle Up, NYC Restaurants Won’t Be Able to Use Propane Heaters This Winter

Plus, South Philly Barbacoa is bringing Philadelphia’s best barbacoa to Manhattan — and more intel

An unlit propane heater standing outside on a street sidewalk with restaurant tables and chairs in the background.
Propane heaters will not return this fall and winter, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced.
Climber 1959/Shutterstock

Winter is coming, and the propane heaters that got New Yorkers through the early days of outdoor dining won’t be there to help. The temporary measure that allowed restaurants to heat their outdoor setups using propane heaters will not be returning this year, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed to Crains New York on Wednesday. The decision was made in regards to fire safety, according to the publication, and apparently has nothing to do with the still uncertain future of outdoor dining.

“We want Open Restaurants to be a permanent part of New York City’s landscape, and the most important step we can take it keeping diners and staff safe,” a spokesperson for de Blasio tells Crains. To offset the costs of propane heaters purchased last year, which in some cases cost restaurant owners thousands of dollars, de Blasio is offering small businesses a $5,000 grant to invest in natural gas or electric-powered heaters this year.

Propane heaters have long been prohibited at restaurants and bars, but last fall the city’s fire department took the unprecedented step of allowing restaurants to use propane heaters outdoors as an emergency measure when indoor dining was limited or temporarily banned. City inspectors have issued more than 1,200 compliance violations since the start of the program, according to Crains, but no fires have been reported at restaurants as a result of the heaters.

Taco Alert: South Philly Barbacoa is coming to New York City

Big news for barbacoa lovers this week. South Philly Barbacoa, the revered Philadelphia restaurant featured in an episode of Chef’s Table, will make its New York City debut as part of a three-day pop-up at Rockefeller Center this month. From October 29 to 31, the Midtown complex will host South Philly Barbacoa and local Mexican restaurants La Contenta and La Newyorkina ahead of the start of Día de los Muertos on November 1. It’s not clear what the Philadelphia restaurant will serve, but we’d put our money its namesake meat will be on the menu.

A James Beard-winning New Orleans chef heads to Manhattan

Nina Compton of the lauded New Orleans restaurant Compère Lapin is the latest chef to take up residency at Intersect by Lexus, the odds-defying sponsored restaurant. Beginning this week, Compton will be serving a menu that brings together flavors from New Orleans and her native St. Lucia with dishes like striped bass escovitch fish and pork belly with green chutney.

West Village residents are suing New York City to stop outdoor dining

Another week, another fight over the future of outdoor dining. A group of small but vocal residents is suing New York City to stop the Open Restaurants program from becoming permanent, mounting complaints about crowds, garbage, rats, and a shortage of parking, among other issues. The suit, put forward by 22 New Yorkers, was filed in the Manhattan Supreme Court on October 18.