News: CJ Exclusives

Downtown Dining Curfew On Raleigh Council Agenda

City officials unable to arrive at compromise with residents, bar owners, diners

RALEIGH — After nearly two months of debate over appropriate late-night noise and pedestrian traffic levels in downtown Raleigh, bar and restaurant owners await the city council’s Aug. 4 vote on an outdoor dining proposal that would place curfews and seating limits on sidewalk patio areas. An earlier council proposal would have prohibited bars from designating patios for patrons and allowed only restaurants to have sidewalk seating.

Passed July 28 by the council’s Law and Public Safety Committee, the latest proposal would end dining on city sidewalks at midnight Sunday through Thursday nights and 1:00 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. It also establishes a maximum capacity rule for outdoor dining areas that complies with North Carolina State Building Code based on allowable square footage per person.

Bar owners, who conceded to the weekday time constraint but requested a 2:00 a.m. curfew for Saturday and Sunday mornings, were unhappy with the compromise.

“At the end of the day, 90 percent of our revenue comes in on Friday and Saturday between 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.,” said Zack Medford, owner of Fayetteville Street’s Paddy O’Beers. “So it’s taking about a third of our revenue from the outdoor space and cutting it off.”

This LPS resolution follows weeks of discussion among members of a hospitality task force comprising merchants, residents, and city staffers. When no agreement on closing hours and capacity limits was reached, the task force sent several alternative recommendations to LPS for a final decision.

“I think that the business community has a lot of great ideas, and I was hoping the task force would come back with some solutions instead of the council having to make the rules,” said District B Councilmember John Odom. “No disrespect to the council, but when you put the council in charge of making decisions, that isn’t always good for everybody, let me tell you that.”

The LPS committee’s proposal also includes a communications plan between city enforcers and downtown merchants to ensure compliance, and calls for additional zoning enforcement from the Raleigh Fire Department. The plan will be tested for six months, after which the city will assess whether it’s working and how easy it has been to enforce.

The city council’s vote is scheduled at the meeting that convenes Tuesday at 2:00 p.m.

Kari Travis (@karilynntravis) is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.