Bar owner: 'Confusing' city rule on sidewalk seating linked to citation
Posted August 27, 2015 6:42 p.m. EDT
Updated August 28, 2015 3:10 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Two weeks after Raleigh's new rules on sidewalk seating for bars and restaurants took effect, the city has issued 20 warnings and one bar owner is facing a court date.
The new ordinance limits the hours and the number of tables for patio dining.
Zack Medford, who owns three downtown bars including Paddy O’Beers, claims that he was trying to fall in line, but that the city's ordinance is confusing.
“The problem is the rules of the ordinance keep changing,” said Medford.
A new compliance unit is taking stock of sidewalk seating along Raleigh's Fayetteville Street.
Medford says he's changed his seating layout four times over the course of two weeks at their direction.
Medford points to the bars’ split layout, where tables are on either side of the sidewalk.
Originally he was told that tables could only be on the side closest to the building so, when his co-workers realized city benches on the other side didn't allow enough room for pedestrians to walk down the middle, they unbolted the benches and moved them. This resulted in a citation for destruction of city property.
Medford says that he does not blame the city for his co-workers’ hasty decision to remove the benches, but he wants to figure out how the bar can comply with the ordinance.
A few days later, the split-layout was actually deemed to be OK. That decision was up to the Wake County Department of Alcohol Beverage Control, which made an exception after coming to see the street.
Medford believes the city should've ironed out the kinks before implementing the ordinance.
“We should've taken the time, gathered the data and talked to the right people and get it right the first time,” Medford said.
City council member Mary-Ann Baldwin said that during this trial period – the ordinance has a trial run through Sept. 8 -- only warnings, not citations, will be given out to bar and restaurant owners.
“Maybe we should've had all these issues straightened out instead of telling bar owners one thing one week, one thing another week,” Baldwin said. “But like I said, that's why we have a trial period.”
The city is actually putting together a brochure on the dos and don'ts of sidewalk seating. They hope to have it out to businesses next week.
Once the trial ends, bar and restaurant owners could face fines of up to $500 as well as the loss of their patio permit for noncompliance.
As for Medford, he and his partners are due in court in October to answer to the citation for destruction of city property.