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Pilot Program Will Allow Restaurants to Expand Outdoor Seating

Susan Post Susan Post Pilot Program Will Allow Restaurants to Expand Outdoor SeatingKatalina's Patio - Photo by Susan Post
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The City of Columbus has announced a new pilot program that will allow restaurants and bars to expand their outdoor seating, three and a half months after dining establishments were first permitted to welcome guests back to their patios.

Through the Temporary Outdoor Seating Pilot Program, restaurants and bars can apply for expedited City approval to use the right-of-way for temporary outdoor on-street dining areas or expand seating into their parking lots.

“Now more than ever, it is important to find ways to support our local restaurants,” said Mayor Andrew Ginther. “The Temporary Outdoor Seating Pilot Program will allow for more patrons, while still maintaining the social distance required to decrease the spread of COVID-19.”

Related: What will it take for local restaurants to survive the pandemic?

Conditions for the program depend upon the type of expansions the establishment is seeking.

Conditions for the right of way and sidewalk program include:

  • The pilot program is applicable to restaurants on city streets with speeds 30 mph or less.
  • All locations must be in an existing parking lane and will be reviewed on a case by case basis.
  • “Edge buffers,” or barriers, are required to maintain a safe distance between vehicular traffic and patrons. Barriers can be either concrete or water filled.
  • Dining areas cannot block vehicle or pedestrian traffic, or impede ADA access. 
  • All entities are required to return the public property to its original condition upon conclusion of the Pilot or use.

Conditions for expansion on private property or into parking lots include:

  • No more than 25% of required parking spaces may be used.
  • Accessible parking spaces are not to be obstructed, or approved alternative spaces of the same dimensions must be provided elsewhere on the parcel.
  • Tents are allowed with 75% of tent sides remaining open when in use.
  • Temporary dining area does not increase the current establishment maximum capacity.

“The Columbus restaurant community is looking forward to initiating on-street dining and expanded patios to safely attract customers and keep restaurant workers employed,” says John Barker, president & CEO, the Ohio Restaurant Association. “This gives restaurants a better chance to survive the Coronavirus pandemic as they continue to work hard to serve the Columbus community and add to the vibrancy of our neighborhoods, supporting small businesses that thrive when the hospitality community succeeds.”

Findings released in early August from a weekly statewide poll conducted by the Ohio Restaurant Association found that 54% of respondents said they believe they will be forced to close within nine months if they continue to operate at their current capacity. In the same survey, 47% of respondents said they are operating at less than 50% capacity based on social distancing requirements, another 41% are operating at less than 75% of capacity, and only 11% are operating at more than 75% capacity. None said they had been able to operate at normal capacity.

Applications for the pilot program can be submitted online at https://portal.columbus.gov/permits/. Upon receipt of a completed application with a site plan showing the proposed layout of the outdoor dining area, the application will be reviewed by the appropriate Departments and Division.

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