City leaders last year restricted the number of diners allowed on downtown sidewalks, but residents tasked with reviewing the new limits are considering a change.
The Raleigh City Council in August limited downtown bars and restaurants to one diner per 15 square feet of each business’ designated sidewalk space, which went mostly unregulated until then. The rule was one of several meant to clear downtown walking paths and reduce outdoor crowds, which some residents complained were too noisy.
But Wednesday, members of a committee the council asked to review some of the new regulations said they’re open to allowing more sidewalk diners under certain conditions.
Raleigh’s Outdoor Seating Design Review Committee, an offshoot of the Appearance Commission, said the new sidewalk capacity rule can limit furniture options – and thus, capacity – for downtown businesses.
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Many businesses affected by the rule are on Fayetteville Street, where they must take city-owned trees, benches and the walking path into consideration before choosing furniture and installing it.
Committee members on Wednesday started a conversation, but didn’t reach a consensus, about regulating sidewalk furniture size and appearance instead of capacity.
“If businesses can follow the standards we’re working on, I don’t see a problem with it,” committee chairman Brian O’Haver, said of allowing more than one diner per 15 square feet. O’Haver works as a landscape architect.
Committee members didn’t have time Wednesday to discuss potential furniture size and style regulations, but are expected to do so at their next meeting at 3 p.m. Feb. 3 at City Hall.
At the very least, the committee wants to require businesses to use durable, commercial-grade furniture. Otherwise, they’ll try to allow for creativity without creating an eccentric, flea market look.
“We really wanna keep this clean, easy and specific, but allow for personalization,” said Jamie Ferguson, a committee member and Realtor.
The committee’s recommendation isn’t binding. Its suggestions must go before the Appearance Commission for review before the City Council considers them, which it’s unlikely to do until March.
The committee has already determined some of its recommendations, which suggest major changes. The committee thinks the City Council should scrap its requirement that businesses erect stanchions between the dining area and walking path. One of the city’s sign requirements should also go, the committee says.