The city is one step closer to rolling up stanchions outside of bars and restaurants in downtown Raleigh.
The Raleigh City Council last year enacted new rules for bars and restaurants that offer outdoor seating on downtown sidewalks.
Among other requirements, the rules mandated that downtown establishments erect above-ground barriers such as stanchions to delineate the dining space and walking path along the sidewalk. The council approved the barrier rule last year to help clear downtown sidewalks often blocked by nightlife crowds.
But on Wednesday, a committee of residents tasked with reviewing the rules agreed that Raleigh should scrap its barrier requirement.
Members of the city’s Outdoor Seating Design Review Committee, an offshoot of the Appearance Commission, said the rule should be scrapped because the barriers are ugly, unnecessary tools for clearing the walking path.
“The stanchions have an negative impact on businesses and on the overall aesthetic of downtown,” said committee member Brandy Thompson, a project architect with the Raleigh-based Clearscapes design firm.
Business owners have complained that servers and diners often trip on the barriers.
Cheap stanchions invite the type of club culture city leaders are trying to avoid, said Jedidiah Gant, a committee member who co-founded the New Raleigh blog.
“It invites cheap activity,” Gant said of the barrier requirement.
Police officers like the barriers because they clearly define the dining area and make it easy to enforce sidewalk dining rules, city staff said. But committee members argued that other new sidewalk dining rules – such as the requirement that all outdoor diners be seated – serve the same purpose just as effectively.
The committee plans to tackle other sidewalk dining-related issues during weekly meetings over the next month before presenting all of its recommendations to the City Council. So, Raleigh leaders aren’t likely to vote on Wednesday’s proposed change until March.
By then, the committee hopes to suggest other alternatives to marking off dining space on downtown sidewalks.
Durham embeds medallions into the sidewalk to show where businesses can place tables and chairs on the sidewalk, and that idea drew support from several committee members on Wednesday.