December 19, 2013 was the final City Council stated meeting of 2013. It was also a farewell to many term limited Council Members and the final meeting in which Christine Quinn presided as Speaker.
At this meeting, the Council voted overwhelmingly to streamline the Sidewalk Café renewal process, provide a Cure Period for certain violations before a fine is levied, to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in restaurants and bars, ban the use of foam food containers and to require that some larger restaurants compost their food waste. In developing The Alliance’s position on these issues we consulted with various members and experts. Unsurprisingly, the positions on these issues were as diverse as the members The Alliance represents.
Since it’s the holiday season and there is quite a bit of time before most of these laws take effect, we’ll hold off on providing a detailed analysis of the requirements until a more appropriate time. However, we thought you might be interested in the following quick analysis of these issues since you’ve probably heard about them in the press.
We are happy to report that several bills The Alliance advocated for passed. The first two bills streamline the Sidewalk Café renewal process by extending the revocable consent renewal to four years instead of two and the second bill makes it clear that when a renewal is properly and timely filed, you are deemed licensed while the renewal is pending. The third bill provides a Cure Period for many signs and other violations, which represent 25% of all the violations issued by seven city agencies. We estimate that this reform will add up to more than a $33 million reduction in fines for small businesses in NYC.
On our blog The Voice of Hospitality, we reported on the electronic cigarette issue before there was even a proposal to ban their use in restaurants and bars. We care greatly about the health and safety of our members’ guests and employees. However, we believe the City Council may have set a bad precedent by banning the use of electronic cigarettes in restaurants and bars, even after the city’s Health Commissioner testified that there is no conclusive evidence supporting adverse second hand effects from the vapor they emit. Although the use of electronic cigarettes in restaurants and bars is not wide spread, some members have reported that they have already voluntarily banned their use. Others say this mandated ban may have a negative impact on their business. The members have told us that to-date, they have been able to accommodate their employees and customers’ requests to use e-cigarettes as a means to quit traditional cigarettes. Using e-cigarettes inside has also reduced noise and cluttering on sidewalks caused by traditional cigarette smokers in front of some bars and clubs.
Restaurateurs share the same planet as our customers, so they support composting and many other environmentally friendly business practices. Some of our members are already composting and many are sourcing local and organic products and take great efforts to reduce their environmental foot print overall. Nonetheless, some restaurants that have not yet been able to implement a composting program have concerns about the additional costs and operational challenges that this government mandated composting law will have. The recently passed composting law will not take effect until 2015 and will exempt many small restaurants. Time will tell how the larger businesses that are not currently composting will be impacted. It’s also important to recognize that government mandates for more sustainable and environmentally sound business practices is the way of the future. So, from a regulatory and compliance perspective, it may be wise for NYC businesses to begin implementing more sustainable practices before they are mandated.
Lastly, while many of our members reported that they no longer use foam food containers, there were a handful that still do who were concerned about the increased costs of more sustainable containers. Therefore we supported the common sense provision that will provide a one-year period to determine if this “dirty foam” can be recycled and sold in a feasible way, otherwise the ban will take effect.
We thank everyone involved for sharing their thoughts and time with The Alliance. Happy Holidays and have a great New Year! We wish all the outgoing City Council members, their staff, and members of the Bloomberg Administration the best in their future endeavors. We look forward to working with the new City Council and the de Blasio administration in 2014.
Andrew Rigie | Executive Director | NYC Hospitality Alliance Andrew Rigie is the Executive Director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance. He serves on multiple committees relating to hospitality, he is a vocal industry advocate and recognized commentator for local, national and international media inquiries relating to New York City’s hospitality industry.