The rule is unnecessary and leads to ugly results.
A group of city advisers felt that way last week about Raleigh’s rule requiring downtown bars and restaurants to erect stanchions around their sidewalk seating areas.
The group said the same thing Wednesday about Raleigh’s rule requiring downtown businesses to post signs indicating where customers can take alcoholic drinks on the sidewalk.
“The result was an unappealing look that benefits no one,” said Jennifer Martin, director of Shop Local Raleigh, an advocate for downtown businesses.
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For the second week in a row, Raleigh’s Outdoor Seating Design Review Committee, an offshoot of the Appearance Commission, agreed that the City Council should scrap a core piece of its new regulations for downtown restaurants that offer dining on the sidewalk.
Rules passed by the council last year require downtown businesses to post signs – which typically say “no alcohol beyond this point” – at exit points in and outside of each business, say the rules passed in August. Fines for noncompliance start at $200.
The city adopted the rule last year as part of a broader effort to clear sidewalks and reduce noise downtown. Some residents complained about nightlife crowds spilling over into the streets and keeping them up late at night.
But committee members on Wednesday complained that the signs create a “flea market” look. While some businesses post sturdy, discreet signs, others have taped printer paper to tables and stanchions.
The new “no alcohol” sign rule is meant to prevent drinkers from straying from their dining area. But the rule is unnecessary, committee members said, because bars and restaurants are already required by state law to keep diners within their space.
The committee asked bar owners to speak about their experience with the signs.
“It’s like having something in your car to remind you not to go over the speed limit,” said Ben Yannessa, who co-owns Paddy O’Beers.
The committee’s agreement on Wednesday came one week after its review of another unpopular rule: that downtown establishments erect above-ground barriers such as stanchions to delineate the dining space and walking path along the sidewalk.
Raleigh’s City Council approved the barrier rule last year to help clear downtown sidewalks. But committee members agreed last week 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’s findings do not immediately affect city rules. The committee plans to meet at 3 p.m. Wednesday during the next three weeks to review other sidewalk-dining related issues before presenting a list of its recommendations to the City Council to adopt or reject.
The council has shown that it’s open to reconsidering its rules, even though they’re less than a year old.
Council members in November scrapped a rule requiring downtown businesses to cease dining services on public sidewalks at 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. The council, at the request of downtown businesses, opted to allow sidewalk dining until 2 a.m. on those nights.