Downtown Raleigh bars and restaurants shouldn’t use the sidewalks as storage closets, city advisers say.
The committee the City Council created to review the city’s new downtown sidewalk dining rules on Wednesday turned its attention to furniture and plans to ask the council to prohibit businesses from stacking their tables and chairs on the sidewalk.
In an effort to prevent theft, bars and restaurants that offer outdoor seating sometimes stack their furniture against their buildings and lock it up during off-hours. But the stacks are an eyesore, members of the Raleigh’s Outdoor Seating Design Review Committee said.
“It’s just not the look we want,” committee chairman Brian O’Haver said.
Under the committee’s proposal, businesses will be allowed to take their furniture inside or leave it in its designated place on the sidewalk during off-hours.
The group’s findings aren’t binding. The Appearance Commission, which oversees the committee, must review and OK the suggestions before sending them to the City Council for approval.
The council isn’t expected to review the group’s proposals until March, but will have a lot to consider when it does.
Since convening for the first time last month, committee members have concluded that they want to scrap at least two of the sidewalk dining rules that the City Council approved in August.
The committee wants to ditch the new rule requiring businesses to erect stanchions – or an “above-ground barrier” – around their sidewalk dining areas. The committee also wants to abandon the new rule requiring businesses to post signs indicating where customers can take alcoholic drinks on the sidewalk.
The council introduced the rules to help clear downtown sidewalks that were sometimes blocked by nightlife crowds, which some residents complained were noisy. But the committee said both rules led to ugly results and were unnecessary, considering another new rule which limits sidewalk capacity.
The new sidewalk rules, also known as the “drunktown” rules, don’t address furniture. But the City Council instructed the committee to review furniture standards after one councilman compared the downtown aesthetic to a flea market.
Wednesday’s meeting was the fifth of six scheduled meetings. They’ve been well-attended, with several people – business owners and downtown residents – sitting in the audience and occasionally commenting as committee members deliberated. No one at the meeting opposed the proposed furniture-stacking ban.
“It looks tacky,” Will Marks, a downtown resident, chimed in during the meeting.
The committee also drafted design standards for the furniture. It should be durable, movable, match the character of the street and be commercial-grade, the committee members said.
The definition of “commercial-grade” remains unclear and will be determined at a later meeting. Seth Hoffman, owner of The Raleigh Wine Shop on Glenwood Avenue, said he’s interested to see how strictly Raleigh would govern furniture design.
Hoffman has a permit for four red aluminum tables on the Glenwood sidewalk. He brings them inside the shop at night so no one steals or vandalizes them.
“They’re durable,” he said. “But I’m not sure if they’d be deemed commercial-grade.”