How to Create Code-Compliant Temporary Outdoor Dining Seating Amid COVID-19 Crisis.
Outdoor dining is a popular warm-weather activity in the best of times, but this year, with COVID-19 putting an indefinite hold on indoor dining, it has become even more important for city restaurants to safely maximize their outdoor dining areas to keep business afloat.
While Phase 2 of reopening, allowing outdoor dining, got underway on June 22, it’s not as easy as simply putting out some tables and chairs and calling it a day. While current guidelines are subject to change, here’s how to get started on opening code-compliant outdoor seating for your restaurant.
Under the Open Restaurant Program, meant to expand safe, temporary outdoor seating space throughout the city, restaurants can apply for an expedited Temporary Outdoor Space Dining Permit. There are currently two routes of application:
Please note: This is not applicable for private property, parking lots, balcony/terrace/rooftop space, or open-air boats.
Upon applying, your restaurant will need to provide information like:
To speed things up, self-certification has been allowed. Once the application is reviewed, a DOT representative will contact you by email about next steps.
Before applying, you need to look at the space you have and decide whether to set up your seating area on the sidewalk or on the street (or both). Each option has different requirements and even different operating dates – while roadway seating will only be allowed through September 8, 2020 (Labor Day weekend), sidewalk seating may last through October 31, 2020.
For sidewalk seating areas, you must:
This one’s a little trickier, since you have to worry about cyclists, traffic, and the like. For roadway seating areas, you must:
The City may revoke or suspend its authorization if a restaurant fails to comply with requirements. (For full list of requirements and application, see Open Restaurants.)
How Restaurant Owners Can Run with This
Restaurant owners may have to get around a number of requirements to make outdoor seating work. However, with a little ingenuity and assistance, restaurant owners can create an open, aesthetically-pleasing seating area that brings the indoors outside in a safe way. Barriers must be fortified with planters or objects of similar weight and size, so owners can take the opportunity to get creative with the design of barriers and decorative objects, as long as they don’t obstruct anything.
It should be noted, however, that requirements could change if need be to better protect public safety. Already since June 22, the barrier requirement was changed to the current 18 inches. You’ll need to keep an eye on these adjustments and act accordingly.
If you need assistance designing or renovating your seating area in a code-compliant way, feel free to reach out to the code and zoning experts at Outsource Consultants.