Dayton to loosen rules for patio restaurant seating

South Park Tavern cook Ivan Braatz sets up outdoor seating. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
South Park Tavern cook Ivan Braatz sets up outdoor seating. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

The city of Dayton has unveiled a program to help restaurants, bars and other businesses add or expand outdoor seating while indoor capacity is restricted due to the coronavirus.

In recent weeks, the city refused to approve new patio or outside seating because leaders were concerned about a lack of local COVID-19 testing and crowding at businesses.

But city leaders and officials say they now feel more comfortable giving the greenlight for new seating to come online.

Businesses think the program has a lot of potential and are pleased the city is willing to try to help out as they try to comply with new social distancing regulations, said Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

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The city’s pilot program is expected to last through October of this year, which is generally warm-weather “patio season,” though the city could extend it if need be, said Susan Vincent, a city of Dayton planner.

The city expects to allow businesses to install temporary patios or extra seating in parking spaces on the street.

Establishments also may be allowed to expand or create new outdoor seating on sidewalks or parking lots they control.

Plantar boxes, wood pallets and temporary fences are just some of the materials and components businesses can use to create borders for outdoor spaces.

The city within a week or two will share clear program guidance about how businesses can seek and set up new seating, Vincent said.

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“Part of what we’re trying to determine right now is what pieces, what parts, what elements the city thinks will work best, and then making those recommendations,” she said.

The Downtown Dayton Partnership will provide outreach to businesses as well as one-on-one support, Vincent said, and also it will recruit and organize volunteers who can help build or set up the new outdoor spaces.

The city has been in close communication with public health officials, the police department and other agencies to ensure their safety concerns are addressed, Vincent said.

Miller-Valentine Group has agreed to be a partner on the program and is working on some patio prototypes, Gudorf said.

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The city will be ready to begin accepting applications around June 1, and the city will use an expedited review and approval process, said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

Dickstein said she would like to see new seating start opening up by the weekend of June 5.

She said the city is creating rules to avoid subpar, unsafe and ugly outdoor spaces.

“What we want to do is have consistent standards,” Dickstein said. “We want these expansions to still be attractive, even though they are temporary at this point.”

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