NYC’s new ban on propane casts chill on outdoor dining scene



No propane for you!

The city’s latest move is cold — and for struggling restaurants already battered by the fallout from the pandemic, things are about to get colder.

The mayor on Wednesday announced the ban of propane heaters for all NYC restaurants, the very lifeblood of business last winter, icing out both restaurateurs and diners.

Chalking it up to a safety decision recommended by the FDNY, Mayor Bill de Blasio decided not to re-up an emergency order that allowed propane use last winter when indoor dining was banned during the pandemic. (Even with 1,200 compliance violations since the program began, there were no propane heater-related fires last year, according to FDNY data reported in the Daily News.) Restaurants can apply for a $5,000 grant to replace them with electric or natural gas alternatives, according to Crain’s New York.

The news comes as a major blow to the industry.

Restaurant owners are hit hard by the propane ban, likening the NYC order to "Keystone Cops."
Restaurant owners are hit hard by the propane ban, likening the NYC order to “Keystone Cops.”
Getty Images

James Mallios, owner of Bar Marseille in the Rockaways and Mediterranean restaurant Amali in Midtown East, blasted City Hall’s edict. “I think we’ll lose every diner who’s uncomfortable eating inside – vaccinated or not,” he said, guessing that those two groups represent about 20 percent of NYC diners. “These guys are like the Keystone Cops.”

Indeed, even the authorities acknowledged there were no major safety issues last winter, when outdoor propane heaters were legion. “While there were no reported safety incidents, after extended review, the city has announced that they will not again allow the use of propane heaters this season, due to safety considerations,” read a statement from the New York City Hospitality Alliance sent Wednesday.

Restaurant insiders are boiling over the mayor’s cold-hearted ban.

“This is typical political BS where they make a decision and don’t really understand the true consequences,” Brooklyn Chop House director of operations Stratis Morfogen said, adding that restaurants will find a way to circumvent the new law.

“Small businesses can’t afford not to seat all winter long. They’re going to run haphazard wires from their restaurant with electrical and extension cords and put electrical heaters probably tied up to some kind of wood or fabric.”

Morfogen, founder of Chinese mainstay Phillippe Chow, predicted, “When they start running extension cords and there’s water and then it’s tied to wood or canvas, you’re going to have an insane amount of fires,” he said.

“It’s going to backfire for sure — no pun intended,” Morfogen said.  

Insiders complain that there’s another problem with electric heaters — they don’t actually keep people warm.

Restaurant big wig Stratis Morfogen blasted the measure: "This is typical political BS."
Restaurant bigwig Stratis Morfogen blasted the measure: “This is typical political BS.”
Getty Images

“They don’t do the job — the BTUs on the electric doesn’t cut it. It’s like a gas stove compared to an electric griddle,” said Mallios.

“Every summer, every suburban home has a propane tank,” he said of the ubiquitous propane grills lining many outdoor spaces. “You hear about more drownings in swimming pools than a propane accident.”

Mallios, whose businesses relied heavily on the propane heaters last year, speculated that the new ruling can be seen as a punitive measure against the unvaccinated.

“I would put nothing past the city. [Maybe they’re thinking,] ‘If we can make it too cold to eat outside this winter, more people will get vaccinated, or we can rip down the outdoor structures,’ ” he said, noting public pushback against outdoor dining setups around the city.

The mayor’s office referred The Post to the mayor’s comments from Thursday’s press conference.

Derek Kaye, owner of Takumi Taco, started a propane delivery business, NYC Propane Delivery, last year, which offers same-day propane delivery and pick-up. He said that swapping out tanks every day helps avert accidents, by avoiding the need to store propane indoors overnight, which is a no-no.

“I wonder what safety they’re concerned about,” said Kaye.

Industry experts portend a long winter.

“It could mean the end of outdoor winter dining for many restaurants,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, told The Post.


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