The city doesn’t plan to tweak recently implemented regulations on sidewalk drinking until Raleigh officials have had three months to evaluate their effects, says Mayor Nancy McFarlane.
The city voted Aug. 4 to require downtown bars and restaurants to stop serving food and alcohol on public sidewalks at midnight Sunday through Thursday and at 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.
At the same time, the city has increased efforts to enforce indoor and outdoor occupancy rules.
City councilors who voted for the rules – three opposed them – said they rules are meant to reduce noise on Fayetteville Street and clear the sidewalks, which they described as “impassable” some nights.
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But some bar and restaurant owners say their revenues are down 15 percent to 30 percent since the city started enforcing the rules Aug. 14.
On Tuesday night, several downtown bar and restaurant employees attended the Raleigh City Council’s night meeting to share their experience.
Mac Flintosh, a server at Coglin’s bar, said her wages are down significantly because the crowds are smaller and there are fewer tips.
Ellis Webber, a bartender at Paddy O’Beers bottle shop, echoed Flintosh and said the nightly sidewalk service cutoffs are creating more noise – not less – because they cause patrons to close their tabs and walk to other bars.
“It’s not reducing noise,” Webber said of the rule. “We’re seeing far more adverse effects than benefits. I suggest we inspect what we’re expecting.”
Ken Briska, manager of Capital City Tavern, said inspectors show up so often and stay for so long that they deter customers.
“We have a job to do, too, and it’s really hard under these circumstances,” Briska said.
Ken Yowell, owner of Calavera empanada and tequila bar, described the rules as “rushed, overreaching and unclearly spelled out.”
The city has issued 43 warnings to 30 downtown businesses since the city began enforcing the new rules, Deputy Police Chief J.C. Perry said Tuesday.
The new sidewalk regulations also limit downtown bars and restaurants to serving one person per 15 square feet of their outdoor space, but the city won’t enforce the new outdoor capacity rule until later this year.
Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said she’s concerned the increased police presence could affect revenues for downtown businesses during upcoming events such as SPARKcon, Hopscotch Music Festival and World of Bluegrass.
McFarlane said the council may talk with city staff about those concerns.
“We certainly are hoping for the best outcome for the city,” McFarlane said of the new rules, adding, “We’re gonna go through with that 90-day (evaluation) period.”
City staff members plan to study how well bars comply with the new rules and gather feedback from residents before reporting back to the council about the effectiveness of the rules on Nov. 3.