Raleigh backs off crackdown on bar patios
Posted June 9, 2015
Updated June 10, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — City officials agreed Tuesday to work with bar owners and others on new regulations for outdoor dining in Raleigh.
A proposed ordinance change would have limited city outdoor dining permits to establishments that garner no more than 70 percent of their annual revenue from alcohol sales.
Downtown bar owners who have added patios or sidewalk seating in recent years protested the move, with Zack Medford, the owner of Paddy O'Beers on Fayetteville Street, gathering more than 8,000 signatures on an online petition to block the change.
"It upsets me a lot that the city created this ordinance without talking to any of us. Nobody from the hospitality industry was consulted at first," Medford said. "If we hadn't raised our voices so loudly, I think this ordinance would have been passed through without anyone noticing."
Opponents wearing T-shirts reading "#SavethePatios" rallied Tuesday and then marched to City Hall to fight the proposal.
"All of us who took a risk to come down here just want a fair shot at having a successful business," said Brett Wells, who owns the Tasty 8's gourmet hot dog shop on Fayetteville Street.
Wells said outdoor seating has been key to his eatery's success since it opened 10 months ago, and it also benefits other businesses and their customers.
"People come downtown, (and) they want to experience the vibrancy," he said. "Eliminating their ability to have patrons sit outside would really affect their business and could potentially put them out of business. Some of these guys were here even before Fayetteville Street was even taking off."
Jennifer Martin, executive director of Shop Local Raleigh, said bar patios and sidewalk seating has helped Raleigh's growing downtown economy.
"We've got a lot of businesses that have come down here on Fayetteville Street to be a part of this growth," Martin said. "Taking that away, I think that's going to set a precedent in this area. ... I don't think we're going to get those same type of businesses back, (the ones) that people love, if we're changing."
City officials said safety is a big reason changes are needed, especially on weekend nights when throngs of people block downtown sidewalks. Special events, such as First Night Raleigh and July 4th celebrations, also require special outdoor permits, they said.
After the show of force from bar patio supporters, the Raleigh City Council's Law & Public Safety Committee recommended creating a hospitality task force where business owners and city staff can work together to address the city's concerns with overcrowded sidewalks.