NEWPORT, Ky. — The City of Newport could soon change its rules regarding outdoor dining, allowing tables and chairs on public sidewalks all year long.
“We have done some new ordinance revisions that we hope to have the board approve sometime after the first of the year for next year that would leave them all year round,” said City Manager Tom Fromme.
Under the city’s current code, tables and chairs are allowed on public sidewalks March through October.
During the pandemic, exceptions were made. And right now, the city is allowing the setups to stay put through next week for the city’s holiday celebrations.
Potential revisions to the city ordinance could also include expanding where outdoor dining is allowed.
“The ordinance does not allow outdoor dining in a residential neighborhood,” said Fromme. "There’s a lot of reasons for that, pretty obvious I think. We’re actually looking at that in the new ordinance to allow outdoor dining in residential neighborhoods with certain restrictions, like time.”
“During COVID, having outdoor dining was critical,” said David Willocks, chef and owner of The Baker’s Table. “There were moments of time we almost had an empty dining room and we were expanded way down the street.”
However, he’s not sure how necessary it is to keep tables and chairs set up on the sidewalks all year round.
“I think last year was an anomaly in terms of our customers being willing to tolerate temperatures below 40 degrees. I don’t know that they will continue doing that,” he said.
However, he does see a big benefit: visibility.
“In a really simplistic way, outdoor dining tables show people that you’re here. When people drive down the Monmouth Street corridor, they see that you’re there, because tables indicate that something is going on,” said Willocks.
A few blocks down on Monmouth, Lana’s Diner manager Cassie Ard agrees.
“We’re also in the middle of the street, so you don’t see us when you drive by,” said Ard. “When we have outside table seating as well, you’re like, ‘Oh, there’s a restaurant there. Let’s stop by and see what they have to offer.’”
Ard also said at the start of the pandemic, outdoor dining was often more crowded than indoor dining. She also said patrons with pets will sit outside.
“It’s really good, because people like to sit outside. If it’s nice out, a lot of people bring their animals, cats, dogs,” she said. “Kentucky weather, you never know. One day in November or February, it may be sunny out.”
“It’s a trend that I think is probably good for the businesses and good for their patrons as well,” said Fromme.
The city of Newport is still requesting feedback from residents and business owners. Those with feedback can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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