by Alex Lloyd Gross
With COVID-19 came shut downs of businesses. Hardest hit has been the restaurant and entertainment industry. Midway in 2020, Restaurant owners offered out door dining which really took off for some places.
in nice weather, people can sit outside and in foul weather, tents with heaters are used to keep patrons warm and dry. In Falls Township, Bucks County PA, an ordinance was passed to enable this year round. There are some provisions that must be followed.
During Monday’s meeting, the Falls Supervisors voted unanimously to permit outdoor dining on a permanent basis. The ordinance takes effect on Aug. 21.In June, the board authorized advertisement of the ordinance, which officials said aimed to “centralize regulations related to outdoor dining.”
As enacted, Falls restaurants could offer outdoor dining either by right or under conditional use. Township attorney Lauren Gallagher said the ordinance would allow for “more permissive outdoor dining uses” and would codify the provisions that had been tested out at the beginning of the pandemic.Officials have said the township has received positive feedback from residents regarding outdoor dining.
Some changes would be required should businesses opt to continue offering outdoor dining on a permanent basis. Most notably, restaurants would no longer be permitted to use parking spaces for an outdoor dining area.
The ordinance states that “areas for outdoor dining shall not interfere with any means of ingress or egress to a building, or with any emergency or safety exits.” In addition, restaurants would need to have a minimum sidewalk width of five feet which is separate from the area reserved for outdoor dining. The ordinance also states that the property “must provide adequate parking for the principal use” and include pedestrian barriers to either enclose or separate outdoor diners from pedestrians or motorists.
Outdoor dining areas are in addition to a freestanding restaurant, bar/tavern, nightclub, lounge, or other related principal permitted use that has indoor seating.
The outdoor dining ordinance does not necessarily pertain to alcohol sales. Falls Township does not have jurisdiction over alcohol sales and consumption.