New York City restaurant and bar owners fear that their bottom line could freeze up this winter if Mayor de Blasio doesn’t renew an emergency permit allowing them to use propane heaters for outdoor service.
The permit, first issued by de Blasio in October 2020, lifted a ban on portable propane heaters to help keep eateries and watering holes open at a time when indoor service was prohibited because of COVID-19. But the waiver expired over the summer, and de Blasio has not said whether he’ll roll out another one ahead of this cold season.
James Mallios, owner of Amali, a Mediterranean restaurant on the Upper East Side is concerned.
Mallios said the propane heater permit was “one of the few bright spots” during the pandemic and that his restaurant would’ve gone belly up without it.
“Without exaggeration, if we did not have propane heaters last season we would be out of business,” said Mallios, who estimated he could lose nearly half of his 75-seat capacity if he can’t have propane heaters this winter.
Mallios is one of 85 restaurant and bar owners who sent de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson a letter in April, pleading to keep propane heaters burning this winter.
Neither men responded to the note, Mallios said. “That was disheartening,” he added.
Before de Blasio’s emergency permit, propane heaters were long prohibited in commercial and hospitality settings due to fire hazards.
FDNY data shows there have been no propane-related explosions or fires at any city restaurants or bars since de Blasio’s order, which specified that heaters could only be placed on sidewalks, not near street seating.
Still, FDNY inspectors have issued more than 1,200 propane compliance violations and confiscated at least 1,000 improperly stored tanks since the ban was lifted, according to the data.
“In some of the most egregious incidents, 20-pound containers of propane were found on roadways, concealed by planters and other objects designed to provide vehicle impact protection,” said Frank Dwyer, an FDNY spokesman.