Fairfax County will allow restaurants to continue setting up outdoor dining areas on sidewalks and patios indefinitely, an extension of the rules that permitted them to do so during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on February 6 to allow outdoor dining to continue. Without this vote, the current uncodified ordinance that was put in place to help restaurants continue operations during the pandemic would have expired on March 1.
“While for many, life has resumed its normal activities and routines, many restaurants every day continue to endure the pandemic’s ongoing effects on historic inflation and workforce shortages,” said Che Ruddell-Tabisola, the vice president of government affairs at the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, who called into the public hearing.
“Expanded outdoor dining has been wildly successful in its efficiency and efficacy of maximizing the use of outdoor space,” he said.
There are some rules that come with this — for one, the outdoor seating can only be out during the businesses’ hours of operation, and those that want to set up permanent outdoor fixtures would need to seek a separate permit.
In addition, if the business is adjacent to single-family housing, outdoor dining must be limited to the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Outdoor dining areas are not to exceed 50 percent of the restaurant’s existing indoor dining area, and the space must be set up on “impervious areas” like sidewalks and patios.
The outdoor seating cannot be set up to obstruct fire equipment, building entrances or exits, or other areas for emergency exits or ADA access. It also cannot restrict pedestrian access to any trail or sidewalk.
“This is one of the good things that came out of the pandemic,” said Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity. “There weren’t many good things, but this is.”
Feature image, stock.adobe.com
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