Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Saying OK to Sidewalk Dining Harder Than It Looks

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Saying OK to Sidewalk Dining Harder Than It Looks

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher F. Aguilar, Shorelines staff writer

Some Beaches residents have said restaurant dining on public sidewalks could offer Town Center a touch of Paris. Others said it would mean clashes between diners and pedestrians.

After seven months of workshops and meetings, the Neptune Beach City Council narrowly passed a controversial ordinance this week that lets restaurants set up tables on sidewalks.

The special meeting to vote on the ordinance was not without confusion. Some council members thought the ordinance's approval guaranteed a Town Center restaurant permission to offer outdoor dining. But they learned that Sunny Caribbee, a Caribbean-style restaurant at Atlantic Boulevard and First Street, also needed a final development order from the council.

Mayor Dick Brown has called a special meeting for Monday to vote on Sunny Caribbee's development order and on a resolution for the lease of the sidewalks. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers, 116 First St.

Sunny Caribbee's request last year to offer outdoor dining prompted city staff to craft the ordinance that the council approved this week. Restaurant owner John Brocato had also asked the city to defer his request until after the outdoor dining ordinance passed since there was no precedent to approve or deny his request.

A couple of council members questioned why the development order was not on the agenda for the meeting.

City Manager Jim Jarboe said the outdoor dining ordinance and Sunny Caribbee's development order were separate, that they couldn't run concurrently.

"You've got to have the laws on the books to have the development order," Jarboe said.

Brown, who was visibly confused and frustrated, said the issue of the development order could have been brought up during workshops.

"This is embarrassing," he said. "Basically, we wasted our time meeting tonight."

The ordinance lets restaurants use sidewalks under a lease agreement with the council, which would determine the charges, terms and termination procedures.

The outdoor dining regulation has 17 conditions that applicants must meet, including agreeing in writing to maintain the portion of the sidewalk used and agreeing to hold the city harmless of personal injury or property damage; the sidewalk has to be wide enough to accommodate outdoor dining and pedestrians; alcoholic beverages will not be permitted outside of the dining area and will be served only with meals; and the dining area shall be designated as non-smoking. …

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