3 NYC Approved Outdoor Dining Heating Options

Bars and restaurants have always been the fabric of our city. According to the Office of the New York State Comptroller, New York City’s restaurant industry in 2019 had 23,650 establishments, provided 317,800 jobs, paid $10.7 billion in total wages citywide, and made nearly $27 billion in taxable sales. In other words, there is no such thing as New York City COVID-19 recovery without our restaurant industry, and the NYC council has stepped up to the challenge with a new batch of supportive guidelines. These guidelines will help everyone continue to succeed with outdoor dining as we head into the winter months. Since this is all-new, and many of us may be flying by the seats of our pants, we wanted to pull together some safety tips for heating your outdoor dining spaces. 

Participants in NYC’s Open Restaurants program now have three approved outdoor dining heating options: electric radiant heaters, natural gas radiant heaters, and portable heaters fueled by propane.  


Electric Radiant Heaters 

Outdoor Dining Heating

The NYC Council has approved electric radiant heaters for sidewalk and roadway seating setups. With no need for a fan or exhaust, electric radiant heaters provide a safe, quiet heating alternative for outdoor spaces. You may be familiar with electric radiant heaters as they are the only unvented space heaters that are safe to operate inside your home. However, while indoors, they do pose burn and fire hazards and should be used with caution. Electric Radiant Heaters must be installed and operated in accordance with the Department of Buildings’ guidance available here

Natural Gas Radiant Heaters 

The NYC Council has approved portable heaters fueled by natural gas for sidewalk seating only. Natural gas radiant heaters are prohibited on roadways (in the streets). Natural gas radiant heaters must comply with the Department of Buildings’ guidance available here. Additionally, natural gas radiant heaters must also comply with Fire Code Section 313.6 and Fire Department rule 3 RCNY 404-03, which requires a Fire Department permit and supervision by a fitness holder’s certificate.  According to City Hall, “The Department of Buildings will advise an applicant about when to notify the Fire Department to schedule required Fire Department inspections.” 

Portable Heaters Fueled by Propane

The NYC Council has approved portable heaters fueled by propane. Propane is one type of liquefied petroleum gas and is highly flammable and can lead to an explosion hazard. Therefore, there are prohibitions on these portable heaters, and they will be, thankfully, regulated by the FDNY. The prohibitions include: 

  1. Propane is prohibited on roadways. You may not use a propane-fueled heater of any size on the hazards or roadway, even if the roadway has been “closed” by the Open Streets/Open Restaurants program. There is no exception. Emergency vehicles still need to get down many of these closed streets so propane cannot be in the street. 
  2. Heaters that use 20-pound propane containers are not allowed in any location that would require propane containers to be brought into a building to transport it to the heater. For example, if you have an outdoor dining area in a rear courtyard accessible only through a building, you cannot use 20-pound propane containers. Similarly, 20-pound containers and heaters that use them are prohibited on rooftops, balconies, and terraces. We cannot overstate how vital it is that we all follow these directions.
  3. Storage of 20-pound propane containers (any container not connected to a heater) is prohibited unless you have an FDNY permit for an approved facility for storage. 
  4. Propane containers of any size cannot be stored below grade (such as in a cellar or basement) or on a rooftop.  You can read more here.

The use of any portable heater fueled by propane (anything from 20-pounds to one-pound containers) must comply with the terms of the defiance and Mayor’s Emergency Executive order 153. Fire Department Certificate of Fitness (T-93) is required in all cases. To reiterate: A fire department (FDNY) permit is required for all propane-fueled heaters, regardless of size. 



Like you, we love New York City’s restaurants and want to ensure every restaurant can operate to the best of its ability during the winter months. Therefore, if you have any questions on how best to heat your outdoor dining areas, please do not hesitate to contact us: 212.389.2567. It is best to be safe and well prepared. We can ensure you are operating safely, with the right permits, and in accordance with FDNY and NYC rules and regulations. We look forward to some winter nights at your restaurant with your updated and safe outdoor dining heating.