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Session seeks input on outdoor dining

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The Daily Reflector

Monday, July 16, 2018

City officials this morning are seeking public input on efforts to revise and expand its regulations that govern outdoor dining at downtown restaurants.

The input session begins at 9 a.m. in Meeting Room A of Sheppard Memorial Library, 530 Evans St. Officials said they want to amend policies to improve the vibrancy and sense of place in downtown area.

Outdoor dining policies allowing for downtown restaurants to use public sidewalks were passed in 2013, but changes could make the policy more effective and accessible, officials have said. It would not be the first time the policy was modified.

The 2013 policy caused discord among some downtown merchants and was amended shortly after it was put in place. Restrictions against umbrellas and requiring all-metal furniture and a $150 annual fee were changed after several meetings between merchants and city staff.

Christian Lockamy, Greenville’s acting director of economic development said in May talking to business owners about what they would like to see is crucial in updating a policy.

Five restaurants downtown have acquired permits for sidewalk dining: Crave, Coastal Fog, Starlight, Fire American Tavern and Blackbeard Coffee Roasters. The policy does not include areas restaurants like Winslow’s or Crossbones Tavern, which have outdoor dining located on their own property.

Lockamy said city staff is interested in expanding the policies to include areas like the Dickenson Avenue corridor. One of the big changes he proposed is reducing the required space between tables or chairs and the curb.

The city enforces a North Carolina Department of Transportation standard of five feet, but discovered on non-DOT roads the space could be reduced to four feet per city code.

Greenville’s downtown sidewalks are narrower than some large cities that have walks 20 feet or wider, so some outside dining options are not possible.

A noise ordinance to allow for lightly amplified sound outside, to give diners a sense of atmosphere, also could be considered. Businesses also may want to leave their furniture outside after hours, provided it is properly secured.

Most modifications aim to make the policy more accessible to business owners. 

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