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Off-season dining standards to be examined

By Lisa Brody

In an effort to continue assisting restaurants in Birmingham, the city commission on Monday, December 7, directed the planning board to review and potentially revise the city's outdoor dining ordinances to allow restaurants to offer outdoor dining in the fall and winter on a permanent basis.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on indoor dining, in late August 2020, the city commission allowed a temporary extension to its outdoor dining ordinance, permitting restaurants to offer outdoor dining in temporary enclosures or other structures from October 1, 2020 through April 1, 2021.

City planning director Jana Ecker said the new outdoor dining ordinance review would extend outdoor dining for establishments annually from November 15 through April 1, permitting enclosures, but unlike this year, only on the sidewalk, not on the street or dining platforms in parking spaces. She said the ordinance would require the restaurant to be responsible for snow removal around their dining enclosure.

“I would want it to be clear that those structures have to come down during the regular season. I think there are concerns about blurring the lines between (the size) of bistros and regular Class C liquor license establishments,” said mayor pro tem Therese Longe.

“What I'm hearing from a lot of the establishments is about making investments that could be used for next year, and if it's only for this year, so they may not be willing to invest (this year). I do think there is some sensitivity to timing,” said commissioner Mark Nickita.

Commissioners Stuart Sherman and Rackeline Hoff noted that the planning board would not be able to address it in time to help establishments determine their needs for this season, and the planning board should not rush.

Commissioners voted 6-0, with Clinton Baller not in attendance, to have the planning board review the ordinance and recommend how the commission should proceed.


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