A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from March 03, 2012
Pop-Up Café

The New York City Department of Transportation initiated a pilot “pop-up café” plan in the summer of 2010 and then started some cafés in 2011. Parking spaces are removed to create small park-like spaces for people to sit and dine on a street.

A “pop-up café” has also been called a “gutter café,” and both are different from a “pop-up restaurant” (a temporary restaurant). The term “pop-up bar” has been cited in print since at least 2006.

NYC Department of Transportation
Pedestrians & Sidewalks
Pop-up Cafés

Pop-up Cafés provide outdoor public seating in the curb lane during the warm months and promote local businesses. Such cafés are popular in Europe, where narrow sidewalks prevent sidewalk cafés, and have recently been established in California, Pennsylvania, and Canada.

In the summer of 2010, DOT partnered with two Lower Manhattan restaurants to pilot the city’s first Pop-up Café. Building on this success, DOT expanded the program in 2011 by partnering with three additional restaurants and cafés to establish pop-ups.

The application process for the 2012 program has not opened yet. Please continue to check this website for more information. If you would like to be notified when the process opens please contact

New York (NY) Post
Curbed appetite
‘Pop-up’ cafes to hit the streets

Last Updated: 11:18 AM, November 18, 2010
Posted: 1:25 AM, November 18, 2010
The city wants to put more bars where there are usually cars.

The Department of Transportation is accepting applications to build a dozen of what it calls “pop-up cafes” in the parking lanes in front of restaurants.

Each “cafe” would be a public space transformed from July to November. They would be built on risers making them level with the sidewalk, have tables and chairs, and be ringed with a protective barrier of planters.

Construction could cost as much as $10,000 per site, and would be paid for by applicants for the businesses.

The Brooklyn Paper
March 16, 2011 / Brooklyn news / Cobble Hill / Brooklyn Restaurants
Smith Street will get borough’s first ‘gutter cafe’!
By Laura Gottesdiener
To find the perfect picnic spot this summer, you might have to put your mind in the gutter.

A portion of Smith Street near Warren Street will become the borough’s first “pop-up café” — part of a pilot program begun last summer in Manhattan — that will replace a parking space with bistro tables and planters.

The Village Voice—Fork in the Road blog
Community Board Says ‘Um, No’ to DOT’s Pop-Up Curb Cafés
By Rebecca MarxFri., Mar. 25 2011 at 10:15 AM
Well, so much for the Department of Transportation’s utopian vision of gutter dining in Soho: Last night, Community Board 2 voted to reject all but one of the pop-up cafés that the DOT had proposed for the neighborhood. The cafés, which would extend from the sidewalk six feet into the road, are the project of DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who had previously tested the concept in Cobble Hill and the Financial District. The New York Post reports that last night’s meeting drew vociferous opposition to the proposed cafés; five of the six were ultimately rejected.

Eater NY
9:19 AM, Mar. 25 2011
Community Board 2 Rejects All But One Pop-Up Gutter Cafe

In a huge setback for the Department of Transportation’s plans to add pop-up cafes—so-called “gutter cafes” because they sit just beyond the curb—to the streets of New York, Soho and the Village’s Community Board 2 voted to deny all but one application in its district.

Sean Sweeney Fri, Mar 25, 2011
DOT’s Pop-Ups Pooped Out
In a striking rejection of a pilot program by the Department of Transportation to encourage New Yorkers to eat in the gutter, Community Board 2 Thursday evening overwhelmingly rejected seven of eight applications for so-called “pop-up” cafés. 
Sidewalk cafes may be pleasant amenities on wide, commercial boulevards. However, the City in its wisdoms restricts them to commercial districts because the noise, crowds, garbage and vermin they generate cause too many problems in residential neighborhoods. DOT sought to sidestep the law that prohibits them in residential districts by placing them, not on the sidewalk, but in the street by the gutter, mere inches from moving traffic and their harmful emissions. What a way to run a restaurant from the agency that can’t fix its own potholes!
Astonishingly, DOT representatives pointed out that these gutter cafés are popular in – get this – Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Can you believe that this agency wants the Greatest City in the World to resemble the provincial capital of a tiny peninsula somewhere in the north Atlantic Ocean? What are these guys tripping on, diesel fumes?

Transportation Nation
NYC Neighbors React to Pop-Up Cafes Turning Parking Spots Into Pit Stops
By admin|08/02/2011 – 10:30 am
(Beth Fertig, WNYC — New York) Parking spots aren’t just for cars and motorcycles anymore now that the city’s Department of Transportation has started leasing them to restaurants for so-called pop-up cafes.

Four such cafes have opened this summer.

One is on Sullivan Street, where owners of the restaurant Local, Craig and Liz Walker, have re-imagined the old stoop culture of SoHo by building a temporary, 16-foot wooden deck in two parking spots leased from the Department of Transportation. They say the name “pop-up cafe” doesn’t seem to describe the space.

“We’ve been calling it a porch,” Liz Walker said.

Craig added, “It’s an unfortunate name because it’s more of a pop-up park.”
08/02/2011 at 10:44 am
‘Craig added, “It’s an unfortunate name because it’s more of a pop-up park.”’
This is a really important quote. Other cities in the US (San Francisco, Phialdelphia, San Clemente CA) that are experimenting with these are calling them “parklets”, and they haven’t had anywhere near the controversy of NYC. It’s much easier (and common) to oppose a new cafe than it is to oppose a new park.

City Atlas
NYC’s pop-up cafés will be back this summer
by Laura Grace Gamse on February 9, 2012
This time-lapse shows a day in the life of a pop-up café on Sullivan Street.  A project of the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT), the pop-up cafés debuted in 2010 and the program grew to include the one featured in this summer 2011 time-lapse.  The pilot program spans 2011-2012.
The best part is…seating is open to the public.  It’s not reserved for any restaurant, not even the sponsor restaurant.  Additionally, restaurants can’t provide table service at the café, but patrons can bring food from a restaurant or from anywhere!

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityRestaurants/Bars/Coffeehouses/Food Stores • Saturday, March 03, 2012 • Permalink