After more than a month of debate, Raleigh’s downtown bar and restaurant owners await the city council’s final vote on an outdoor dining proposal that would place curfews and seating limits on sidewalk patio areas.

Passed Tuesday by the Law and Public Safety Committee, the proposal takes into account recommendations from downtown merchants and residents, and includes the following:

  • Sidewalk patio closing hours of 12:00 a.m. Sunday to Thursday, and 1:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • A maximum capacity rule that complies with North Carolina State Building Code by allotting square footage per person. (Square footage allowance varies depending on tables and chairs, chairs only, and standing room only.)
  • A communications plan between city enforcers and downtown merchants to ensure ease of compliance and enforcement.
  • Additional enforcement staff support from the Raleigh Fire Department.
  • Provision for a six-month trial period, after which the City Council will revisit the plan to assess performance and enforceability.

The resolution came after weeks of discussion among members of a hospitality task force comprised of merchants, residents, and city staffers. When no compromise on closing hours and capacity limits was reached in negotiations, the task force sent its varying recommendations to LPS for a final decision.

“I think that the business community has a lot of great ideas, and I was hoping the task force would come back with some solutions instead of the council having to make the rules,” said District B Councilmember Odom. “No disrespect to the council, but when you put the council in charge of making decisions, that isn’t always good for everybody, let me tell you that.”

The greatest point of conflict in the LPS resolution was that of closing hours for sidewalk dining on Friday and Saturday nights. While some residents called for a 12:00 a.m. curfew, owners and patrons of downtown bars and restaurants made their case for a 2:00 a.m. cut-off.

“At the end of the day, 90 percent of our revenue comes in on Friday and Saturday between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m.,” said Zack Medford, owner of Fayetteville Street’s Paddy O’Beers. “So it’s taking a third of our revenue from the outdoor space and cutting it off. On top of that, if people can’t bring their drinks out past 1:00 a.m., they are still going to set their drink down on the table and step outside and have a conversation. The only difference now is we don’t have door guys out there to calm them down.”

District A Councilmember Wayne Maiorano acknowledged disagreements surrounding the sidewalk dining time limit, and called for more discussion between residents, merchants, and city staff.

“Thanks to the people in this room who have invested in our downtown you’ve helped us grow,” Maiorano said. “You’ve helped us become more vibrant. Let’s face it. Vibrancy means different things to different people. We are obviously changing. We’re creating an urban experience that, quite frankly, Raleigh doesn’t fully recognize.”

The city council will put the LPS proposal to a vote on August 4 at 2:00 p.m.