It may not be long before patrons can enjoy a meal outside with downton scenery.
Wendell planning staff presented a draft of an outdoor dining ordinance to the board of commissioners at its meeting on June 23, a move prompted by the Economic Development Committee’s prediction of new restaurants that they hope will crop up in the downtown district.
And it’s a policy elected officials are hoping to move along quickly.
Right now, only Agave Mexican Grill offers outdoor seating, allowed because it’s on private property, Planner Patrick Reidy said.
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But for other restaurants, there are no guidelines for outdoor dining areas.
After consulting the outdoor dining policies of Raleigh and Alexandria, Va., Wendell’s planning department drafted a policy that would require businesses interested in offering outdoor dining areas to carry a $1 million insurance policy, no use of plastic, upholstered or vinyl furniture and a process that would grant permission within three days of an applicaton, which would have no fee associated with it.
Initially, the policy also required the restaurants to come before the town board if they planned to serve alcohol, but Mayor Tim Hinnant and Commissioner Ginna Gray said as long as owners are following rules set forth by ABC, it seemed like too much to require the board to approve it.
“I want to be really cautious that we’re not going to allow this to happen but we put up so many hurdles, (business owners) throw up their hands,” Gray said.
Reidy said planning staff included the requirement for board approval because they wanted to follow the town’s precedent with events like the Harvest Festival, which come before the board for approval to have alcohol on town property.
But elected officials seemed ready to allow outdoor dining, asking Reidy to revise the policy to make iteasier for businesses.
“Those regulations are archaic and we don’t think we should be more stringent than the state,” Hinnant said, when discussing how the policy handles alcohol.
To create the draft, the town asked for input from Primo Pizza, Aubrey and Peedie’s Grill and the Wendell Taproom, which isn’t open yet.
Besides clearing hurdles for business owners who may want to take advantage of the policy, commissioner John Boyette also wondered if there was a way to avoid having business owners come back before the board for any potential conflict.
Boyette asked for some provisions to limit the space individual businesses used for outdoor dining to make sure businesses weren’t encroaching on neighbors’ space.
After a brief discussion, commissioners asked Reidy to create a process that would allow restaurants to use their neighbors’ space, if there was a mutual agreement.
The revised policy will go back before the board on July 14.