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Greensboro City Council approves increasing outside seating for restaurants

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The May 19 meeting of the Greensboro City County ended with recess rather than adjournment. As previously reported, this was so the council could return at 11 a.m. on May 21 and discuss allowing restaurants to extend their premises into sidewalks and parking lots, increasing capacity during Phase II of Governor Cooper’s order.

City Manager David Parrish began the resumed meeting by announcing “a good approach” that would “utilize the already-existing city code related to streets and sidewalks, more specifically related to special events.”

Parrish explained that Chapter 26 of the city code already allows reviewing applications to utilize the public right-of-way. He said it would be easy to prepare a separate permit application that restaurant owners can submit.

“Josh Sherrick in our special events process already handles this type of application on other related items,” with “review by police, fire, building, field ops, and transportation to make sure that it’s safe and complies with other regulations as well.”

Parrish said that all the council needs to do would be to waive fees normally associated with such an application, at least through June 26.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan said she hoped staff could work on these permits “quickly and with haste.” Parrish said the standard 60-day waiting period would also be waived.

District 1’s Sharon Hightower asked what the notification process would look like. Parrish said his staff are working on an information release.

“Likely included in that will be a link to the permit itself on the special events landing page, and you can fill out the application form there.”

Hightower expressed concern about small groups seated outside, turning into larger gatherings.

“The same things that apply to indoor dining apply to outside dining,” Parrish  replied. “If you can’t do that inside, you can’t do that outside,” and that restaurants would be required to monitor seating outside.

At-large representative Marikay Abuzuaiter expressed confidence in restaurant owners, adding that many she knows have elected to stay takeout and delivery-only.

“I trust the restaurants to understand when they are able to extend their premises and to do the right thing.”

She also advised restaurant owners to check with their insurance company if they do extend their premises, and if they are renting their space rather than owning it, to check with their landlords.

District 3’s Justin Outling called the proposal “a terrific thing to do, using an existing framework provided by state law, to provide flexibility to those restaurants who might be able to take advantage of this.”

He also said that “anyone who does something wrong” would not only be in violation of a city ordinance but in violation of the permit, “which would provide an opportunity for police and other people in enforcement to provide help to remedy the situation.”

A half-hour into the meeting, the council voted unanimously to approve this permitting process and to waive the fees associated with the permit.

ADDENDUM:

For information on how to apply for an expansion of restaurant premises, see the Restaurant Expansion into Public Right of Way Permitting section on the city’s COVID-19 Information and Updates webpage.

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