Dayton restaurants expand onto sidewalk, parking lots

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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These are the top three winners in Dayton.com's Best of Dayton 2019-20 contest Best Barbecue: City Barbeque, Company 7 BBQ and Hickory River Smokehouse.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Dayton restaurants and bars, which have had their capacity cut during the pandemic, are getting some more flexibility to expand outdoor seating.

The coronavirus that’s at the center of the pandemic can spread more easily when people are indoors and close together than when people are outdoors and spaced apart, but state orders to enforce spacing have left many thin-margin restaurants with a far lower customer capacity.

The city of Dayton’s new Pop-Up Patio Program provides businesses with help expanding out onto sidewalks, parking lots or other outdoor areas to have more spaced out seating and help make up some of that lost capacity.

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Dublin Pub General Manager Anthony Good said that they lost about 40 to 50 of their seats inside after the governor’s order and anytime a restaurant loses space and seats they are losing money. When reached Tuesday afternoon, Good said he was just getting ready to turn in his application to the city for more outdoor seating.

“Our margins are so small already and every seat is a dollar sign,” he said.

The new patio guidelines follow discussion of a proposal by the Dayton City Commission on May 27.

“We’re trying to be as flexible as possible so that our restaurants can still see customers in order to support their businesses. And one of the ways we can do that is to allow them to expand where they might not have been able to expand into previously, like the sidewalk or a parking space on their street or on their own properties,” said Susan Vincent, planner with City of Dayton Departments of Planning and Community Development.

The city is giving guidelines for outdoor additions such as patio expansions, parklets (platform cafes) and pedlets (temporary walkways around expanded seating areas).

The city of Dayton said its new guidelines for outdoor dining and customer service areas will assist businesses in expanding seating capacity while meeting social distancing health and safety standards. City staff will help businesses with the application and permitting process, as well as guidance on public safety, construction, building materials and aesthetic appeal.

MORE: More local restaurants — including some of our oldest and youngest — to reopen this week

The program was developed by city departments working with the Downtown Dayton Partnership. The DDP is working with Miller-Valentine Group, Requarth Lumber, Cross Street Partners, and other organizations and volunteers to make "starter kits" to help with creating outdoor seating, including planter boxes with posts and rope to connect the planters and mark off an outdoor seating area. The DDP is taking surveys online for those that want to reserve free starter kits at downtowndayton.org/pop-up-patio/.

It’s also a city-wide program available outside of the downtown and throughout the other neighborhoods, said Vincent.

Interested businesses my contact the City of Dayton at susan.vincent@daytonohio.gov or 937-333-3683, or go to daytonohio.gov/patio for more information.

Many other cities besides Dayton have taken this approach, allowing restaurants and bars to stretch out into the road, the sidewalk or other outdoor spaces. Cleveland Plain Dealer reported northeastern cities like Lakewood and Medina have taken steps to ease the ability to add outdoor seating. Cincinnati also has a pilot program of closing some streets to allow expanded outdoor dining and seating, WVXU reported.