NYC Council Announces New Law is in Effect to Support Small Businesses by Eliminating Unnecessary Regulations and Fines

NYC Council Announces New Law is in Effect to Support Small Businesses by Eliminating Unnecessary Regulations and Fines

City Hall, NY – Today, Local Law 151 of 2023 went into effect, reducing fines for small businesses and allowing them to resolve certain violations before being penalized, while eliminating certain unnecessary requirements for commercial establishments. The law, sponsored by Council Member Julie Menin, was passed by the New York City Council in November 2023 and signed into law later that month.

The reforms under Local Law 151 include provisions intended to reduce financial and other burdens on small businesses, such as simplifying signage and requirements for waste collection, eliminating a number of prohibitions, and reducing fines to as low as $0 for a variety of first-time offenses. Specific examples include permitting car washes to correct and cure first-time recordkeeping violations, eliminating requirements for restaurants related to the use of plastic straws, and rescinding the prohibition on unreasonable noise from a personal audio device.

The New York City Charter and Administrative Code both contain numerous regulations that can impose harsh financial penalties for violations, disproportionately burdening small businesses. Many of those regulations can lack clear rationale or specificity, allowing for too wide a range of penalties that is open to interpretation, and the new law helps address these issues. Small businesses in New York City must comply with regulations put forth by numerous city agencies, and penalties can add up to negatively impact businesses that are integral to local communities.

Immigrant-owned and operated small businesses comprise almost half of the city’s more than 220,000 small businesses. Small businesses serve as a common pathway to the middle class for immigrants. Immigrant entrepreneurs, and all entrepreneurs, are vital to creating local jobs and growing the New York City economy, and it is critical that city laws do not place undue burden on small businesses.

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“Our City Council is committed to seeing small businesses thrive and this law will bolster the backbone of New York’s economy,” said Council Member Julie Menin. “We are reducing fines and providing tangible relief to those business owners who need it most. Strengthening our small businesses isn’t just about economic growth, it is about protecting the livelihoods of countless New Yorkers. By codifying portions of the Mayor’s ‘Small Business Forward’ Executive Order, we have made historic strides in cutting red tape to ensure that every entrepreneur, every storefront, and every business has a fair chance to succeed.”

“Small businesses do so much for our communities – they create jobs, make communities vibrant, and contribute to local economic development,” said Council Member Oswald Feliz, Chair of the Committee on Small Business. “It’s important that businesses comply with regulations but hammering them with fines should not be our main approach for compliance. I applaud Council Member Menin and the New York City Council for passing this important piece of legislation that will benefit business owners in the city. Local Law 151 will provide vital cure periods for certain violations and will ensure there is compliance with our many regulations, without negatively affecting our small businesses.”

The Council has enacted a number of laws in recent years to reduce or eliminate excessive fines and unnecessary violations for small businesses, including Local Law 135 of 2013 and Local Law 80 of 2021 that reduced penalties and introduced new opportunities for businesses to correct violations without having to pay a fine.

The newly enacted law reforms additional regulations and violations under the jurisdiction of various city agencies. These include:

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Amending provisions enforced by the Department of Transportation (DOT) relating to businesses using bicycles for commercial purposes.

  • Reducing the civil penalties for failure to maintain a roster of bicycle operators to $0 (from $100) for the first violation, and $100 (from an additional $250) for subsequent penalties after 30 days, and similarly reducing the penalty for failure to post required signage outlining bicycle safety procedures at the business site.

Amending provisions enforced by the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) relating to commercial recycling and commercial organics labeling and signage, and the provision of plastic straws.

  • Simplifying signage requirements for businesses regarding the collection of organic waste
  • Setting a $0 penalty for the first-time violation of labeling and signage requirements for commercial recycling and for first-time violations of requirements pertaining to organics disposal by commercial establishments.
  • Rescinding the requirement that a restaurant not ask a customer why they are requesting a plastic straw and that plastic straws must be used at restaurants; the specification that plastic straws must be used on restaurants’ premises; and the requirement that certain restaurants provide a bin for the disposal of compostable beverage straws made of plastic.

Amending provisions enforced by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) pertaining to requirements and penalties in restaurants and pet shops.

  • Requiring DOHMH to provide, at no cost to a restaurant, a mandated sign detailing how to assist a person who is choking.
  • Reducing to $50 (from $100) the penalty following a violation of the prohibition on providing certain beverages with a children’s meal.
  • Reducing to $200 (from $500) the maximum penalty after a violation for failing to display required healthy eating information.
  • Permitting a pet shop to collect required information about the source of a dog or cat by a sworn affidavit from the source, given that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) inspection report, previously available on the USDA website, went down after previous law was enacted.
  • Reducing to $400 (from $500) the minimum penalty for a restaurant violating the prohibition on selling force-fed products.

Amending provisions enforced by the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP).

  • Setting an initial penalty of $0 for preparing or accepting payment for merchandise at a stoop line stand.
  • Permitting car wash businesses to correct and cure first-time recordkeeping violations. 
  • Setting an initial penalty of $0 (from $100) for selling perishable food without a printed sell-by date and to set upper limits of $175 for a second violation and $275 for a third and any subsequent violation.
  • Repealing parts of the Administrative Code regulating trade practices requiring businesses with raincheck policies to post signs; regulating the sale of travel tickets; regulating delayed payment transactions; and requiring disclosure of certain information by childcare facilities.
  • Setting an initial penalty of $0 for failing to provide a client with a consumer bill of rights regarding tax preparers and to set ranges of $250 to $500 for a second violation and $500 to $750 for each succeeding violation.
  • Setting an initial penalty of $0 (down from a range of $100 to $250) for selling expired over-the-counter medication.
  • Setting an initial penalty of $0 (down from $250) for running an air conditioner while a door or window is open and to set an upper limit of $500 for each open door or window for any second and subsequent violation within an 18-month period.

Amending provisions enforced by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) relating to penalties in the Noise Control Code and the Community Right-to-Know Law.

  • Repealing the section of the Administrative Code that restricts the use of mobile telephones in places of public performance.
  • Rescinding the prohibition on unreasonable noise from a personal audio device.
  • Eliminating the prohibition on using a steam whistle attached to a stationary boiler.
  • Repealing the penalties for the violations of the Noise Control Code.
  • Reduce the minimum penalty to $100 (from $500) for a first violation of the requirements of the Community Right-to-Know Law

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