Sidewalk Dining Improvements

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Downtown Sidewalk Dining Application Link

Sidewalk Dining Application

The Downtown Sidewalk Dining application for Downtown restaurants is above and an example site plan as required in the application is here. This is a temporary application while the Town reconsiders its sidewalk dining ordinance (Chapel Hill Town Ordinance Sections 17-76 through 17-90). Only restaurants that want to use the public right of way (ie Downtown sidewalks) are required to comply with the included requirements and application.

Process Improvements

Sidewalk dining is a vital part of Downtown vibrancy, variety and economic development. As part of the Public Realm initiative of the Downtown 2020 Work Plan, the Town has been examining the sidewalk dining permit process for improvements to improve the Sidewalk Dining Permit Application process, increase flexibility for restaurants, and promote safe sidewalk dining

Town staff have completed a draft of the proposed Code text amendment which can be found here. The changes came from input received from restaurants and the Downtown Partnership, a new State statute passed since the Town Code was written, and Town staff input. The text amendment will be presented to the Planning Commission on March 19, 2019 and to the Town Council on April 10, 2019 for approval.

Major changes include:

  • Removing zoning restrictions - now any approved restaurant that abuts a public right of way (sidewalk) can apply for a sidewalk dining permit
  • Reducing the minimum distance from intersections, curbs, and permanent objects of sidewalk dining furnishings - this increases the available space for sidewalk dining activities
  • Removing restrictions around furnishing size and type - furnishings must now only meet Chapter 8 of the Building Code (the same as any other furnishings)
  • Removing the requirement to bring in furnishings by midnight each night - furnishings may now be left out except during Town-declared special events or adverse weather
  • Town Manager has more authority to grant variances
  • A penalty and appeals process is now outlined within the ordinance

The Sidewalk Dining Permit Application, linked above, will be revised once the text amendment has been approved by Town Council.

Input Opportunities

A meeting of Downtown restaurants was held on February 5, 2018 at LaUNCh and the notes from that meeting are here. The Town also tested the proposed Sidewalk Dining Permit Application with multiple restaurants throughout 2018 to ensure it is clear, concise, and includes all the information needed to approve outdoor seating.

In addition, the community is invited to send their input about sidewalk dining for consideration in the revised ordinance to Sarah Poulton at or 919-969-5009.

From PhotoShelter

Questions or comments about sidewalk dining? Call or email Sarah Poulton at 919-969-5009 or


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