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NYC: New Procedures for Place of Assembly Permits for Restaurants

New York City officials have announced there will be changes to  procedures for place of assembly permits for restaurants, which will impact both new and existing businesses and other organizations.

Our New York City restaurant lawyers understand that the changes, termed Local Law 2 of 2013, will become effective as of May 7, 2013.

Places of assembly are defined as those places where 75 people are more are gathered indoors or 200 or more people are gathered outdoors. The purposes of these gatherings may be for recreational, educational, political, religious or social purposes or to consume drinks or food, to await transportation or any other similar activity.

Among the changes that have been announced:

  • The Department of Buildings will be issuing new certificates of operation for all places of assembly, both new and existing;
  • The updated certificates will no longer have an expiration date;
  • New places of assembly permits, issued by the fire department, will now expire each year and will be renewable pending an annual fire department inspection;
  • The fire department-issued permit will have to be obtained and displayed within a year of when the Buildings Department issues its certificates;
  • Both the fire department permit and the Buildings Department certificate have to be appropriately posted and the approved plans have to be available on site.
  • Changes to the place of assembly’s physicality, seating plan, furnishings or any change to the name of the establishment will require an amendment to the Buildings Department certificate.

It is important as you and your establishment plan for obtaining the initial permitting or a renewal that you have your lawyer’s contact information close at hand, should any issues arise.

The city notes that some of the most common objections for plan exams are:

  • The building, floor or space fails to provide necessary exits;
  • The certificate of occupancy doesn’t actually reflect the correct use;
  • The distance between the place of assembly and a safe area that is fire-rated (think outside or a stairwell) fails to meet the minimum standards set forth by the Building Code;
  • The separation between the place of assembly and the kitchen is not appropriately fire-rated.

When these inspections are conducted, you may choose to have your attorney present either as your sole representative or assisting an administrative staffer during the process.

The most common reasons for failing an inspection include:

  • Improper placement of exit signs;
  • Occupancy signs improperly posted;
  • Inability to produce a sign-off letter from your electrician;
  • Not having the right locking devices on your doors.

Most of these are fairly easy to mitigate. They may be even easier to prevent by meeting with your attorney first, which will save you the hassle of having to delay opening or potentially close while you wait for the inspector to make time to return.

Note that renewal inspections are not announced ahead of time. The first renewal inspection may occur at any point several months prior to the expiration of your permit. Second and subsequent renewals, you’ll be given notice of the month of the inspection, but not the day.

If you need assistance with place of assembly permits for restaurants, contact our office.

The Wright Law Firm is a business law firm located in Midtown Manhattan. Call (212) 619-1500 for a confidential consultation.


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