NYC: New Procedures for Place of Assembly Permits for Restaurants

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

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 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, 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;
  • 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 establishment’s name will require an amendment to the Buildings Department certificate.

It is essential as you and your establishment plan for obtaining the initial permitting or 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 to plan exams are:

  • The building, floor, or space fails to provide necessary exits;
  • The certificate of occupancy doesn’t 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 the following:

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

Most of these are relatively 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 closing 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 before the expiration of your permit. You’ll be given notice of the inspection month for second and subsequent renewals, but not the day.

Contact our office if you need assistance with the place of restaurant assembly permits.

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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