sidewalk ordinance update

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COLUMBIA - Downtown restaurants may soon be required to pay an annual fee for an application to serve customers on the city's sidewalks. The community improvement district (CID) proposed changes to the city's sidewalk dining ordinance Tuesday. 

CID executive director Katie Essing said changes will give restaurants more options for design, and keep downtown vivid.

"We have an active and vibrant downtown with several restaurants, and we want to encourage sidewalk dining," Essing said. "the current code hasn't been looked at in around a decade, so we want to see what options we can take to accommodate sidewalk dining." 

The downtown leadership council's main concern with outdoor dining is sidewalk access. One of the CID's proposals requires the outdoor furniture to leave at least five feet of clear space on the sidewalk. 

"That's not enough," said council member John Clark. "It should be six feet or more to keep downtown walkable in both directions."

Another point of contention at the meeting was how to enforce the new ordinance when it does go into effect. One council member said a complaint driven process would be ineffective.

"Consumers will just forget to complain if they do see something that's out of line," council member Janet Hammen said. "An inspector would hold restaurants accountable."

Essing said the proposed annual fee is fifty dollars right now. Clark said that isn't nearly enough, especially if a city employee were put in place to enforce the rules. 

One proposal took a page out of Savannah, Georgia's ordinance: no logos for alcohol products on umbrellas. Branding of the restaurant on umbrellas would be allowed.

Under the new ordinance, restaurants would have more options for barrier designs. Right now, the city allows one basic design: a black, powder coated chain with a movable post. Places like Fuzzy's and Room 38 have different designs because they made a right of use request to the city. 

The next CID meeting is May 17th. 

"We're still hashing out the full details with stakeholders and the city council," Essing said.