The Raleigh City Council on Tuesday slowed the progress of a staff proposal to forbid some businesses from serving customers at tables on city-owned sidewalks.
Currently, a mixture of bars and restaurants have permits that allow them to serve customers on public property. The proposal would limit that right to businesses that make at least 30 percent of their money from food sales, a rule meant to distinguish restaurants from bars.
Originally, staff had asked that the council hold a public hearing and potentially vote on the idea as early as June 16. Instead, the council quickly and unanimously deflected the matter to its Law and Public Safety Committee.
The recommendation would affect “about six to eight” establishments, according to City Manager Ruffin Hall. It was inspired by some bar’s illegal behavior, including the operation of a minibar on the sidewalk of Fayetteville Street, according to staff. The change would be dramatic, according to several affected businesses.
“We would be badly hurt by this,” said Will Alphin, an owner of the Foundation bar on Fayetteville Street.
The council’s action on Tuesday eliminated the possibility that the city government would change its policy on June 16. The earliest vote on the ordinance change now would be July 7.
The outdoor-seating permits are set to be renewed before then, at the end of this month, but the Raleigh City Council still could make changes to the outdoor-seating rules effective this year, according to Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin.
She will lead the committee discussion of the item next at 3 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall. The committee will consider other options, including stronger enforcement by police, she said.
“They’re pretty big issues,” she said. “ ... What other options are out there, that exist?”
The council also will decide soon whether to allow sidewalk serving on July 4th.