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Roadway Cafe: How to Operate

Once you are up and running, here’s what you need to know!
General Requirements
Hours of Operation

General Requirements

  • Roadway cafes must be kept clean, well-maintained, and clear of trash, debris, graffiti, vermin, food scraps, and unsanitary conditions. The restaurant must also clean 1 foot 6 inches on all sides surrounding the setup area.
    • If flooring is used, the restaurant must remove the flooring and clean under it at least once a week.
  • A restaurant must maintain good order including proper conduct of patrons and preventing excessive congregation of restaurant patrons immediately adjacent to the cafe.
  • Service of restaurant patrons must take place within the cafe, not from the adjacent sidewalk or roadbed.
  • Furnishings and decorative elements such as tables, chairs, tabletop lighting, etc. must be secured during non-operating hours, but cannot impede or block access to utility infrastructure.
  • Umbrellas and overhead coverings must be secured during inclement weather such as high winds or heavy snow.
  • No smoking or e-cigarettes are allowed.
  • Unreasonable Noise:
  • Alcohol may only be served if permitted by the NYS Liquor Authority.
  • A restaurant must keep on hand a copy of their roadway cafe license and make it available upon request by a government official or inspector.


The roadway cafe must be accessible to persons with disabilities and comply with applicable requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the NYC Building Code.

Hours of Operation

You are permitted to operate during the following hours:

  • Sunday, 10 a.m. to midnight  
  • Monday, 8 a.m. to midnight  
  • Tuesday, 8 a.m. to midnight  
  • Wednesday, 8 a.m. to midnight  
  • Thursday, 8 a.m. to midnight  
  • Friday, 8 a.m. to midnight   
  • Saturday, 8 a.m. to midnight


You may only operate a roadway cafe during certain times of the year:

  • You may operate between April 1st and November 29th.
  • You may not operate on any day from November 30th to March 31st.

NYC DOT may allow restaurants additional time to set up and break down their roadway cafe. NYC DOT will post these dates on its website. You cannot serve patrons or operate during these periods.


The restaurant is responsible for storing the roadway cafe during the off-season. Check out resources from our Dining Out NYC: Setup Menu or search the Dining Out NYC Marketplace for a storage company.


Non-Compliant Setups

  • For first time violations, restaurants will receive a corrective action request (CAR) which will provide the restaurant with 30 days to correct the violation before NYC DOT issues a summons for a violation.
  • Restaurants that are not in compliance with any of the operation and management or design requirements contained within sections 19-160.1, 19-160.4, and 19-160.6 of the NYC Administrative Code or sections 5-10 and 5-11 of Title 34 of the Rules of the City of New York may be subject to the following penalties:
    • $200 for the first offense
    • $500 for the second and subsequent offenses
  • Pursuant to section 19-160.5(c) of the NYC Administrative Code, for restaurants that are repeatedly found to be non-complaint, NYC DOT may suspend or revoke the license and order the removal of the outdoor dining setup after an opportunity to be heard.

Unlicensed Setups:

  • Restaurants that operate outdoor dining without a license and revocable consent may be subject to the following penalties and/or ordered by NYC DOT to remove their outdoor dining setup.
    • $500 for the first offense
    • $1,000 for the second and subsequent offenses