Public service announcement: Your terrible vestibule etiquette makes winter worse

Good bagel shop, bad vestibule etiquette. Photo by Tim Donnelly/Brokelyn.

Good bagel shop, bad etiquette. Vestibules are one of our best defenses against the cold. Don’t ruin them. Photo by Tim Donnelly/Brokelyn.

We’re about to go into a bone-chilling, frozen-pipes-warning, the polar-opposite-from-summer, they-even-cancelled-an-ice-festival-because-it’s-too-cold weekend. So let’s take a moment to appreciate some true heroes of the season: winter vestibules. Those little pop up chambers act like an air lock between the bitter cold of the frozen tundra outside. They are crucial elements of city life, one more safeguard that makes sitting inside a bar absorbing whiskey to thaw your bones seem like the only way to wait out the cold (I wrote an appreciation and brief history of the vestibules for the NY Post last year).

But there is a problem with this system that is ruining it for all of us and rendering them ineffective: terrible vestibule etiquette. It occurs when you hold the door to the outside open, letting winter into our sanctums, violating the social contract meant to keep us all warm. Please refresh yourself on the proper way to use them this weekend. 

Here is the correct way to use a winter vestibule:

1) Open the vestibule door.
2) Step fully inside and close the door.
3) Open the door to the restaurant/bar/yoga studio/robot foundry/millinery or whatever establishment you’re patronizing only once the outside door is closed.
4) Reverse this process upon your exit.

Too often we don’t consider proper vestibule usage when entering a place —leaving the door to the outside flapping open like it were some carefree sundress drying on a clothesline on a breezy summer day. This creates a wind tunnel, and the cold air rushes in, violating our attempts to hide from the cold, making any seat near the doorway about as attractive a place to sit as the roof deck on that Snowpiercer train.

Vestibules like these are one of our greatest defenses against winter. Don't ruin it with bad etiquette. Photo by Tim Donnelly/Brokelyn

This is what a vestibule should look like: closed except for brief moments of entrance. Photo by Tim Donnelly/Brokelyn

You might be funneling into a bar or restaurant with a group of people, a long snake of friends rushing to escape the cold, so perhaps your own efforts to get to warmth distract you from what your actions may be doing to the people trying to conserve warmth inside. Think of it like coming back to a space station after a long, cold spacewalk through your rapidly gentrifying space neighborhood. You wouldn’t leave the door to the vast vacuum of space open as you rush back inside, thereby killing everyone. You would take proper precautions to make sure space stays outside, where it belongs. Winter also belongs outside.

Take the time to close the door and practice proper vestibule etiquette. It may take a few seconds longer to get out of the cold, but everyone inside will thank you. Because soon you too will be a person inside, gripping your coffee or hot toddy tightly, wondering why those heathens are letting the cold in every time the door opens.

Be one of the bestibules, not one of the restibules.

Follow Tim who will be hiding in a vestibule until summer: @timdonnelly.

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One Comment

  • Also, don’t get snippy when the bartender or barista yells at you to close the door as you straddle the threshold, gaping slack-jawed at the angry, freezing customers.