Archive for Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sidewalk seating

Before city commissioners open the door to additional sidewalk dining areas, they should carefully consider the impact to pedestrians and the atmosphere of downtown.

January 22, 2008


Outdoor dining isn't a particularly tantalizing prospect in the depths of a Kansas winter, but Lawrence city commissioners are right to be tackling this issue before the first warm days of spring.

Regulation of sidewalk seating areas has a bit more urgency for the city since it strayed in November from its established policy by issuing a sidewalk dining license to The Bourgeois Pig, which doesn't meet the normal requirement to do 70 percent of its business in food sales. City staff members were instructed to compile a report on how other communities handle sidewalk dining and are scheduled to report to and seek additional guidance from city commissioners tonight.

The staff looked at policies in about a half-dozen communities similar to Lawrence. Most of the communities had some requirement for food sales although some required that food be only 50 percent of an establishment's business. Some communities had done away with the food requirement, making both restaurants and bars eligible for outdoor seating. Others had tried to spell out ways other than a percentage of food sales to define a restaurant.

Outdoor dining facilities seem most attractive when there is more room for them than on the sidewalks of Lawrence. That often is when communities have closed streets to create pedestrian malls, although even those can get overcrowded. (Orange Bowl visitors who ventured onto Miami Beach's Lincoln Road experienced one such area.)

Although outdoor dining can add to the ambiance of downtown during pleasant weather, sidewalk space is limited. Proposed guidelines for sidewalk dining areas prepared by the city-county planning staff call for maintaining at least 6 feet of sidewalk width for pedestrians. On side streets, keeping 5 feet of sidewalk clear might be acceptable.

Commissioners must balance many interests when considering expanded sidewalk dining areas, but their top concern should be to provide adequate sidewalk space for pedestrians, some of whom travel in strollers or wheelchairs. They also must consider whether loosening food service requirements and allowing drinking establishments to receive sidewalk licenses will result in unruly, perhaps drunken, patrons spilling onto the sidewalks - something that definitely doesn't add to downtown's ambience.

The narrow seating areas that currently are allowed along Massachusetts Street don't provide a particularly serene or inviting atmosphere for many patrons and can be inconvenient for pedestrian traffic. Commissioners are right to take a comprehensive look at sidewalk dining, but they should be wary of expansions that could exacerbate current problems and perhaps create a crop of new ones.


lounger 10 years, 2 months ago

How is this for a backfire- I was all for the smoking ban and then it happened. Wow How nice it is in the stores and bars-just breathe easy -but wait.. dont go outside to the public seating because your bound to get a dose of cigarette smoke-even if you dont want it!! Its hard to enjoy a walk down the street because of the increase of cigarette smoke. Sad thing is Im not into bars near as much as I WAS Into window shopping and just wondering around our lovely town Throwing $$ around. So the outdoor seating issue is only the beginning of a harder problem to solve....

cowboy 10 years, 2 months ago

why not make mass a pedestrian mall , whats the downside ?

Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 2 months ago

Let them have outdoor seating, but ban smoking in those areas. Make the smokers stand on the sidewalk at least 20 feet from the entrance of any building, where they won't give others cancer.

SloMo 10 years, 2 months ago

And where there is sidewalk seating, eliminate the adjacent parking places in order to widen the sidewalk.

I don't think Mass. Street needs to be closed to traffic, but it would be nice to eliminate all but handicap parking, and make the sidewalks wider. A lot of people wouldn't drive on Mass. Street if they knew they couldn't park on it, so traffic would be reduced some. It would be a lot safer for bicyclists without cars backing out - they could ride in the street like they're supposed to.

akt2 10 years, 2 months ago

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Katie Van Blaricum 10 years, 2 months ago

I don't understand what is being debated here. There is already outdoor seating at lots of restaurants downtown. Do they want to expand into the street or something??

Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 2 months ago

aquakej, the debate is over the city ordnance requiring a restaurant to make 70% of its sales in food to be eligible for outdoor seating. The ordnance intent is to exclude bars from this practice. The outdoor seating you see downtown is for those institutions that make 70% sales through food. When the City made an exception for the Pig, the other bar owners felt the ordnance is being enforced unequally, and are asking to be excepted as the Pig is. The discussion essentially boils down to "should we let bars as well as restaurants be allowed outdoor seating?"

BigPrune 10 years, 2 months ago

Lawrence, Kansas, - Raging socialists and closet communists. Could the majority in City Hall have ADHD? Is this why living in this town is like living on a rollercoaster ride?

seriouscat 10 years, 2 months ago

Make Mass street a pedestrian mall. Yes!!!

Katie Van Blaricum 10 years, 2 months ago

Well, this is a pretty stupid thing to be fighting about. Several people can already sit outside with a beer. They might also have a slice of pizza in their hand, but they are, nonetheless, "corrupting" those who pass by, making lacivious and snide remarks to all because they are drunk. :) If I wanted to go and buy 3 beers at Papa Kenos and then sit outside, I could.

FatTony 10 years, 2 months ago

Ped Mall, Ped Mall, Ped Mall.

Plus with no traffic Mass St, that will elimate the threat of drive-bys from people leaving Last Call.

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