May 15, 2023 - Food and Drink

Pandemic-era restaurant patios are here to stay

O'Toole's restaurant in Forest Hill. Photo: Karri Peifer/Axios

The city is moving to make all those temporary pandemic patios permanent parts of Richmond's dining landscape.

Driving the news: Richmond's "temporary outdoor dining encroachment permits" expired last week along with the federal state of emergency over COVID-19.

  • As a result, around 20 restaurant patios in the city are technically not permitted.

Yes, but: No one needs to take down their outdoor seating, chief administrative officer Lincoln Saunders tells Axios.

  • "We want to work with them [to make the patios permanent]. We're not looking to discontinue them," Saunders says.

A notice emailed last week to some restaurant owners with temporary sidewalk seating and posted to Reddit suggested the seating needed to be removed immediately, which is not the case, Saunders says.

  • "We could've been clearer with the language," he acknowledges.

Saunders says all of the patios that had the pandemic permits should be eligible to transition to permanent permits under the existing policies, which require an application and a $150 fee.

  • ADA compliance will be the chief issue the city is watching for.
  • He added that the recent elimination of parking minimums will also make it easier for restaurants with patios located in parking lots to apply for permanent status.

Catch up quick: The city relaxed its usual outdoor dining permit process beginning in April 2020, expediting applications for outdoor seating on sidewalks and in parking lots.

  • The temporary program tried to turn around permits in about a week and waived permitting fees.

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