Outdoor dining a hit with Park City restaurants
On any warm summer day, many Park City residents will develop an appetite walking Main Street, but not many want to leave the fresh air to eat.
So if the hungry people won’t come to the restaurants, the restaurants must come to the hungry people. After all, the customer is always right.
This is why many restaurants in the Park City commercial district offer al fresco dining. But getting a permit to have outdoor or sidewalk seating is no walk in the Park.
Jonathan Weidenhamer, a planner with the Park City Planning Department, said
There is a distinction between outdoor dining, which takes place on private property such as a patio, and sidewalk dining, which happens on a city sidewalk or public area.
"What they need for outdoor dining is called an administrative conditional use permit," he said. "The big loophole is you have to notify anyone within 300 feet of your business. Want to make sure there is no noise impact, or any other disturbance. As far as sidewalk dining goes, you have to lease city property to do that and they have to renew their leases every year."
Cows, the Main Street Deli, Eating Establishment and Bistro 412 all utilize sidewalk dining.
"It’s used a lot more during the summer, but the way permits are issued is that they run year round," Weidenhamer said. "Most of the restaurants have outdoor dining. Numerous business have enjoyed outdoor dining for ever and ever. It’s unfortunate that it’s such a small time window."
Weidenhamer also said that the businesses, as well as the Planning Department, look at it as economics.
"When there are people outside enjoying Main Street, it makes it look vital and alive," he said. "This is the third year we’ve had this sidewalk-dining program where we’ve allowed people to come out and dine on the sidewalk, and it’s all to increase vitality. The tables outside fill up first. As soon as it gets warm enough, or even barely tolerable, people want to sit outside."
Jeff Ward, a Main Street restaurant businessman, said it helps business to be able to have tables outside and that it also enhances the outdoors feel of Park City.
"I think it helps us tremendously," Ward said. "We have both the terrace and the patio at the back of the restaurant, and that’s what people like to do in the summertime they like to be outside. It’s important to the Main Street business core to be able to have that sidewalk feel. It’s really nice aesthetically."
Another issue the Planning Department must deal with is the use of outdoor signs in the business district.
There have been a few changes in last year’s code, including changes in what signs can be used and where businesses can use them.
Ray Milner, also a planner with the Planning Department, said there are not many changes, but enough to make an impact.
"We changed a regulation on monument signs, or free-standing signs," Milner said. "It used to be that if you had signs on the building proper you could have 10 sqare feet, and if you didn’t have any other signs on the building you could have 20 square feet, but now it’s just 20 square feet as long as they are meeting other requirements."
He also said there are no plans to change to rule banning the triangle-shaped portable sidewalk signs
"The one thing the business community would like to have is portable sidewalk signs, but the city council said they don’t use them for safety as aesthetic purposes," Milner said.
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Another ski season is in the books, and much to the relief of the restaurant industry, the outlook, like the weather, is looking sunny.