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WBNS-10TV Columbus, Ohio | Columbus News, Weather & Sports |

Columbus extends outdoor seating program for restaurants through November

Nearly two dozen restaurants and bars are taking advantage of the outdoor seating program.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The city of Columbus is extending its outdoor seating program for restaurants and bars through November.

The program, which was announced in August, allows restaurants and bars to expand outdoor seating to sidewalks and parking lots temporarily.

New applications are still being accepted. All applications and questions can be submitted here.

“We know the Temporary Outdoor Seating Pilot Program has been a lifeline for many of our restaurants and bars during this unprecedented time, so extending the program made good sense,” Mayor Ginther said.

Seven restaurants are currently participating in the right-of-way dining, and 16 others have outdoor dining in their parking lots. Public Service and Building and Zoning Services will reach out to participating establishments to see if they want to continue through November.

10TV did reach out to representatives from f BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, Taste Hospitality Group and Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. All have plans to make use of the extra time.

“Every little bit helps as we’re navigating COVID and how to maximize our opportunities for revenue, and having that outdoor dining definitely helps that, and I think it provides an option for diners,” said Sheila Trautner, president and CEO of Taste Hospitality Group, which owns Hubbard Bar and Grille and Wine on High, among other establishments. “There’s a lot of people that enjoy dining outside, and especially with our current situation it’s been a game-changer for us as a business to be able to accommodate more outdoor seating and patio seating when, in the Short North, it’s a little more difficult to come by.”

John Barker, president and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association, also was pleased. He says restaurant owners need every boost they can get to survive these challenging times. And, while government funding and loans can be the most critical when it comes to helping the industry, any adjustment that allows for serving more customers is important.

“We’re going to want to see our local coffee shops and donut stores and our restaurants and our bars to be here when we turn the corner on this in 2021, and that’s what all these pieces are really doing, and so, we’re very thankful that the outdoor dining has been extended, and I think you’ll see more of that here in the next couple weeks,” Barker said.

His association has been working with the city and the governor’s office throughout the pandemic to help restaurants and bars survive as best they can. And, while the ORA is still pushing to extend the alcohol cut-off time from 10 p.m. to midnight, he is grateful for each small victory.

“I think the city realizes how important it is to try to keep these restaurants operating as long as they possibly can, extend that season a little bit, extend that dining outdoors,” he said. “Even though it’s gotten a little bit cooler, people still want to be outside.”

BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse plans to keep its outdoor heated tents going through the extended period at the Polaris and Tuttle Crossing locations.

And plans are in the works for Cameron Mitchell Restaurants as well. Del Mar SoCal Kitchen and Marcella’s set up outdoor seating when the pilot program was first announced.

“Cameron Mitchell Restaurants greatly appreciates the city’s commitment to supporting the local restaurant community and we intend to leverage the extended outdoor dining program through November,” CMR released in a statement. “We are currently reviewing options including the use of tents with proper air circulation. We remain deeply focused on providing a safe and healthy dining environment for our associates and guests.”

The city released information in August on what businesses need to know about the applications.

Conditions for the right of way and sidewalk program include:

  • The pilot program is applicable to restaurants on city streets with speeds 30 mph or less.
  • All locations must be in an existing parking lane and will be reviewed on a case by case basis.
  • “Edge buffers,” or barriers, are required to maintain a safe distance between vehicular traffic and patrons. Barriers can be either concrete or water filled.
  • Dining areas cannot block vehicle or pedestrian traffic or impede ADA access.
  • All entities are required to return the public property to its original condition upon the conclusion of the Pilot or use.

Conditions for expansion on private property or into parking lots include:

  • No more than 25% of the required parking spaces may be used.
  • Accessible parking spaces are not to be obstructed, or approved alternative spaces of the same dimensions must be provided elsewhere on the parcel.
  • Tents are allowed with 75% of tent sides remaining open when in use.
  • Temporary dining area does not increase the current establishment maximum capacity.