City Proposes Outdoor Dining Ordinance

By Adam Swift

The city is looking to adopt a permanent outdoor dining ordinance through a zoning amendment.

“This is a way for us as a city to formalize what’s been happening in earnest since Covid when many different restaurants expressed a need to get outdoors in that public emergency,” said Tom Skwierawski, the city’s planning and community development director. “It was supported by different state regulations, most importantly the ABCC extension of temporary granting (of outdoor dining), which will expire in April. What we want to do now as a city is create an ordinance which makes formal the allowance for outdoor dining throughout the city and public places.”

The city policy was created as a partnership between the planning department, the city’s business liaison, the inspectional services department, and the licensing commission.

“I believe it is a reasonable set of regulations that puts a lot of checks and balances on the outdoor dining policy, most importantly through site plan review and the licensing commission,” said Skwierawski.

Assistant city solicitor Claire Inzerillo said all the applications will go through a site review process that includes input from the city’s disability commission, fire prevention, and police department among others.

“It’s not going to be a free-for-all, which was kind of happening under the state’s emergency guidelines,” she said. “This is a way to really put it in place so these places can go through one rigorous process in the beginning, getting all of their checks in and then having the ability to open up every single summer and treat people to a nice outdoor dining experience in the city.”

City ADA coordinator and City Councillors Ira Novoselsky and John Powers did raise some concerns about how outdoor dining would impact ADA accessibility on public streets and sidewalks.

Licensing Administrator Maggie Haney noted that the ADA takes precedence and everything within the ordinance must comply with it. She added that the new ordinance could also make it easier to enforce potential ADA accessibility issues.

The council’s zoning subcommittee will discuss the proposed ordinance change at its Nov. 13 meeting before coming back to the full council for a potential vote.

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