City eases sidewalk drinking regulations

Commission takes away food sales requirement

New sidewalk drinking areas soon will be a part of downtown Lawrence.

City commissioners Tuesday night agreed to partially lift a ban on allowing downtown bars to apply for sidewalk seating areas.

Commissioners said if a downtown bar can show that it has no other option – like a rear deck – to allow for outdoor seating, then it may apply for a sidewalk seating area.

The new regulation is a major change from the city’s current practices, which since 1994 have limited sidewalk seating areas to restaurants that make at least 70 percent of their sales from food.

City staff members have estimated about six downtown bars potentially could qualify for the new sidewalk seating areas.

Commissioners approved the new regulations on a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Mike Amyx opposed. Amyx, as did some local residents, said he was concerned the sidewalk drinking areas could change the ambiance of downtown.