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  • By Lisa Brody

No applications for new Birmingham bistros

For the second year in a row, the city of Birmingham did not receive even a single application for a bistro liquor license for 2019.

The deadline to apply for one of two available bistro liquor licenses for 2019 was October 1, 2018. There will be a second opportunity for a 2019 license since there were no applicants, with the deadline April 1, 2019.

Per the city's ordinance, which was created in 2007, only two bistro applications can be approved each calendar year. The bistro ordinance was developed as an economic development tool to invigorate the downtown streets, create walkability and vitality, and to enhance the retail component of the city.

The city's bistro ordinance was designed to create small and intimate establishments in the city's downtown and entice operators to create unique dining operations in Birmingham as an economic incentive to drive walkable traffic to the city's retail community. The ordinance permits no more than 65 interior seats, with no more than 10 of those at a bar, large windows that open out to the street, outdoor dining, and restaurants where food is the focus, not the bar.

The bistro ordinance has since been expanded to include the city's Rail and Triangle districts, and there are currently efforts to tweak and improve the ordinance, including determining how much outdoor dining is appropriate per establishment; seeing if larger bistros would be allowable in the Rail and Triangle districts; deciding that outdoor patios cannot have year round enclosures; and determining that railings or planters on outdoor dining platforms can not be any higher than 42-inches tall, and rooftop dining would be permitted as an outdoor use if surrounding properties are not negatively impacted and there is also adequate street level outdoor dining.

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