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Proposed Revisions to the Town’s Sidewalk Dining Ordinance

Post Date:03/13/2019 1:56 PM

As part of a larger effort to lower barriers to small businesses, the Town of Chapel Hill is considering changes to the approval process for sidewalk dining permits.

What is sidewalk dining?

Sidewalk dining refers to when a restaurant places furnishings in the public right of away (sidewalk) immediately adjacent to their building for the purpose of actively serving patrons. Dining activities on private property are not governed by this part of the Town Code.

Why make changes to the Town Code and permit application?

  • Make permit application process easier
  • Align the Town Code with new State guidelines that focus on safety versus aesthetics
  • Promote sidewalk dining to foster the vibrancy of public spaces

How did Town staff determine changes?

  • Restaurants voiced their concerns about the permit application process and that ordinance guidelines are overly restrictive. These concerns were used to determine many of the proposed Code changes.
  • A new permit application was piloted with multiple Downtown restaurants and their experience was used to adjust the application and the Code changes.
  • Ways to improve the Code and permit application were tested with restaurants in a public input meeting last year as well as the Downtown Partnership
  • State statute provides detail around local government requirements.

Will any restaurants currently sidewalk dining be affected by the changes?

All restaurants currently sidewalk dining are in compliance with the proposed language so no effects are anticipated by Town staff.

How do I provide feedback on the changes?

  • Contact Sarah Poulton, Downtown Special Projects Manager with the Town, at 919-969-5009 or
  • Attend the Planning Commission meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, at Chapel Hill Town Hall where Town staff will be presenting the changes and asking for feedback
  • Attend the Town Council meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, at Chapel Hill Town Hall when the Council will consider acting on the proposed revisions
  • Provide feedback to Planning Commission members (contact information can be found here) or the Town Council at


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