Stimulus on the way, heater guidelines

Sooo Stimulating!! SPEAKER P. AND MNOOCH GET HOT AND HEAVY; RELIEF DEAL IN SIGHT!

It looks like all the haggling and acorn squeezing may finally pay off as Speaker P. is on the verge of sealing a big, juicy stimulus deal to get money to all of us hurting business owners and needy Americans.  Mnooch and DT have come around and, according to news reports, a 2 Trill stimulus package is looking very good.  Speaker P. today said that she is “optimistic” that a deal will get done and Madam Speaker does not toss that word around willy-nilly so I take that as a very good sign.

If the deal happens, we can say that we witnessed a master class in high stakes negotiations.  Nancy played her hand beautifully and moved politicians around like they were pawns on her political chess board.  She forced DT, Mnooch and Mitch into a corner and they now have little choice but to capitulate and agree to a yuuuuge package.  She can claim victory and DT can take credit and who cares because everyone wins.  For once, it seems like our Dearly Elected will do their job but we are not quite there yet so don’t count those chickens.

Mitch and Sideparts still need to sign off and that could prove difficult as they have been hemming and hawing and bitching and blurbling about approving such a big bill.  I don’t get it.  They act like the money’s coming out of their personal bank accounts. Do they really think this is the time for fiscal conservatism when the country is up to it’s eyeballs in the quicksand that is our small business economy?  As of this evening, the old coots are toning down their rhetoric and are no longer being adamant that they will oppose a sweeping bill but Mitch is an OG dirty trickster so we are keeping our eye on him.

Speaker P. had imposed a deadline of tonight to get the deal done, but she has backed off and is now saying by the end of the week.  We can assume that this is because they are working on some of the finer details and they also need time to draft the darn thing.  Whatever happens, we are all over it and will break it down for you as things develop.

For more breakdown, Mr. Levey has been working the phones talking to every NYC agency under the sun about outdoor seating and heat lamps and all that jazz so here he is.

Joey Regs Says…

Be careful what you wish for?  Just last week we were railing against NYC about their handling [or lack thereof] of the creation of heater guidelines for our outdoor seating. We complained that these guidelines were promised by the end of September, and a few weeks into October and we STILL hadn’t seen them.  Customers can’t dine outside without heaters, and without outside diners, we’re sunk.  The good news: NYC officials have finally answered the bell.  The bad news: these guidelines are a lot!  Below we will break down what the different requirements are, what they mean, and guide you through the most expeditious way to get compliant.  We will also include links throughout, that will bring you directly to various FDNY applications and forms.  Buckle up; there’s a lot here.
 
Let’s review.  Last month, our Mayor announced that outdoor dining is here to stay-even throughout the winter months.  He also announced that a combination of enclosures and heating devices would be allowed, to help make the outdoor seating areas more comfortable for guests.  We found out that electric heaters would be permitted for sidewalk and roadway seating and that propane and gas heaters would be approved for sidewalk and other ground level seating (specifically not roadway), such as rear yards, adjacent parking lots, etc.
 
Now, we finally know how to utilize any and all of the above heating mechanisms in a compliant manner.  Many of the City’s varied agencies have been coordinating on this plan, in an attempt to “get it right.”  Getting it right here means covering all safety protocols sufficiently, streamlining the process and getting operators up and running as quickly as possible, without the usual bureaucratic red tape that we always complain about.
 
While many agencies were involved in rolling out this program, ultimately the Fire Department is calling the shots here re: guidance, rules, safety, etc.  We are ultimately talking about combustibles here, so that does make sense. 
 
The Three Main Categories of Heaters

  1. Portable heaters fueled by piped natural gas

I’m imagining that this will be the least popular of the options, but for the sake of thoroughness, we’ll cover it anyway.  This option is allowed for sidewalk seating only – specifically prohibited for roadway seating. 

Highlights:

  • Must be compliant with all City guidelines re: Open Restaurants Program
  • Must comply with FDNY code section 313.6;
  • Must comply with Fire Department rule 3 RCNY 404-3;
  • Requirement of someone on-site at the restaurant to be a “Certificate of Fitness” holder (described and discussed more fully below);
  • Must email FDNY to schedule an inspection;

*Link to full guidance for these heaters can be found later in this document

  1. Electric Heaters

If you’re looking to utilize electric heaters, we know that you are allowed to use them on the sidewalks and the roadways, and for compliance, your burden is to conform to the NYC Department of Buildings guidelines (which include some interplay with FDNY and your utility provider as well).  There’s a ton here, but you’ll be working with professionals (electrician and plumber) who can guide you.  You CANNOT do this yourself.  Find the full guidelines here

Highlights:

  • You must verify that the equipment is meant for outdoor use;
  • Two options: Freestanding natural gas fired radiant & ceiling/wall mounted natural gas fired;
  • Either option should be installed by a NYC Licensed Master Electrician;
  • Engage NYC Licensed Master Plumber to evaluate your gas plumbing system and to ensure safe systems and connections;
  • There are numerous permits to obtain (facilitated by your electrician/plumber) and a few inspections as well.
  • Rely on your professionals here!
  1. Portable Heaters fueled by Propane (LPG)

 
This will likely be the most popular of the options, and there are really two subsections of this category: 1) Those with 20-pound propane containers; and 2) Those with one-pound propane containers.  Both kinds are prohibited for roadway seating use – even if your roadway has been closed by the Open Streets/Open Restaurants program.
 
Heaters that use the 20-pound propane containers are NOT allowed to be used on rooftops, balconies, terraces, patios or any other area which would require that those containers to be brought through the interior of a building to access the heater that they will be attached to.  An example of the latter would be a courtyard or separate outdoor dining place that is only accessible via the building [with no additional egress point(s)].  One-pound propane containers CAN be used in heaters for all of the above spaces, however.
 
Propane containers of any size cannot be stored below grade (in cellars or basements), or on rooftops.  And a special permit is required to store extra containers of any size [that are not attached to heaters].  More info on that below.
 
Whether we are talking about the 20-pound container variety or the 1-pounders, the requirements are virtually the same.  And use of any propane heaters must comply with the guidance provided with the Mayor’s Emergency Executive Order 153.
 
Unlike the above [Electric] option, where you must rely on professionals to assist with the install and set-up, this option provides the flexibility for you to undertake the project yourself.  As such, we’re going to flesh this one out a bit more.
 
OK.  So what the F do we have to do?
 
Under normal circumstances, there would be a number of different FDNY permits (four, to be exact) that you would need to obtain before utilizing a propane heater of any size.  However, in an effort to streamline and simplify the process (thank you very much), FDNY is accepting a simple “Attestation” and a “Site Plan,” in lieu of the four different permit applications (and the considerable, annoying supporting documentation attached to each.). The attestation form can be found HERE.  It’s super straightforward.  Please follow the directions, execute and forward to the designated FDNY email address.  We’re hearing that as long as you complete the form correctly, and attach a clear site plan, you should receive your permit from FDNY in just one business day.
 
You may have noticed that items 2, 10, 11, 12 on the attestation form reference “Certificate of Fitness” holders, or T-93 permits.  A T-93 “Certificate of Fitness” must be held by someone on-site at all times.  This is basically like the Food-Handlers Certificate, but for propane heaters.  There’s a silly test, there’s a bunch of ways to take it, and it’s pretty straightforward.  Does the owner need to have it? No – just someone on site at all times when propane heaters will be utilized.  If I were you though, I’d take it myself and have all of my managers take it NOW.  The fee for the exam and certificate have been waived due to COVID, so there’s no reason not to get people certified.  The more the merrier.  Please find study materials and info about registering to take the exam HERE.  And while the Attestation and Site Plan is enough to get the ball rolling with FDNY, part of the Attestation is that you are agreeing to have someone secure this certificate of fitness within three weeks.  Please don’t sleep on this.
 
The only other permit that you could really even potentially need here, would be the permit to allow for additional propane container storage.  THIS is it. I’ve spent the last few days on the phone with various FDNY and NYC personnel, in an attempt to provide you some clarity here, but no one is really sure yet.  We’ll update you on this piece, whenever more info arises.
 
HERE is the FDNY’s full guidance.  While we’re outlining the basics and the “How to’s” here, it’s worthwhile to review the full guidance from FDNY – especially the “Additional Requirements” section, towards the end.
 
So, to recap, if you want to utilize propane heaters for the outdoor seating areas at your restaurant, follow these quick and easy steps:
 
1 – File your Attestation and Site Plan;
2 – Have someone (or multiple people) get certified for their T-93 certificate(s);
3 – Buy compliant heaters (pursuant to printed guidelines);
4 – Set them up in a compliant way (pursuant to printed guidelines).

As with any program that’s rolled out on an emergency basis, we’re expecting there to be a few hiccups, some likely changes and modifications, and for there to be a bit of uncertainty as everyone adapts to the new changes – operators and regulators alike.  As things develop, we’ll be here to break them all down for you and bring you the latest and greatest info possible.
 

PPP Update:
In other news, we’re approaching the six-month mark from when the original PPP loan recipients all received their funds – meaning that you’re about out of time to spend the $, if you haven’t already.  While you do have some time still before you have to file your forgiveness applications, it’s not a bad idea to at least start putting your records together.  If you’ve engaged us for assistance with the forgiveness application, you should have received an email from our friends at Scotto & Melchiorre within the last week or so.  Don’t ignore that please.  This is just a gentle reminder for now.  More aggressive reminders will come later, as we get closer.
 
I’d like to close today by giving a special shout out to the NYC Office of Nightlife and our Nightlife Mayor, Ariel Palitz.  Ariel and her team work tirelessly behind the scenes, getting shit done, that benefits the hospitality community, that nobody ever hears about.  It’s a thankless gig – especially right now.  And Ariel, we appreciate you! 
 
Joey Regs out.


Hang in there everyone.  We have made it this far and we will make it to the other side as long as we stick together and as long as the country doesn’t implode and as long as we all vote for sane, competent people.

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