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City Makes Room for Sidewalk Cafes



Bistro 27 has been trying to get city approval to open a sidewalk cafe for more than a year. It hasn't gotten far, according to the city's director of community planning, Mark Olinger.

Restaurateurs rejoice: Under a new set of guidelines passed Monday by the Planning Commission, Bistro 27 and any other eatery that qualifies can get the necessary permits. The revamped rules relax regulations surrounding the use of city sidewalks for outdoor eating and drinking, which city officials hope will result in a proliferation of open-air dining options.

It was possible to use city sidewalks for outdoor cafes before the change, Olinger says, but the permitting process took months, was costly and uncertain. Under the new guidelines, restaurants can get permits for $150 in fewer than 10 days.

"My hope is that it will take less time to get the furnishings than the permit," Olinger says.  

There are some limitations. First, there must be enough room — the resolution requires outdoor eating areas to leave 5 feet of clear walking space on the sidewalk. Second, any outdoor furniture and barriers must be taken inside at the end of each business day.

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