Foodservice Equipment Reports

Portland Says Sidewalks Are For Eating On, Not Eating Up Space

Complaints about outdoor dining areas encroaching on pedestrians’ space has prompted Portland, Ore., to spell out specific rules for restaurants with outdoor dining, including how much sidewalk space they can encompass and the times of year patrons can sit outside.

The revised guidelines come in response to protests from parents pushing strollers, people in wheelchairs and others with mobility requirements who said dining spaces were impinging on their right of way.

Last year, after 20 complaints were lodged against restaurants whose outdoor dining areas were taking up too much of the sidewalk or encumbering pedestrians, the city sought input from restaurant owners on the proposed regulations.

Portland, known for its active street-café culture, now requires operators to submit a permit application, which spells out clear measurements for how much sidewalk space their tables and chairs can take up and how many feet of pedestrian space must be maintained.

Under the guidelines, restaurants must have a sidewalk at least 8-ft. wide, and a clear 4-ft.-wide passage for pedestrians must be maintained at all times. For restaurants with sidewalks wider than 8 ft., dining areas can take up no more than 60% of the width of the sidewalk.

For restaurants without sidewalks wide enough to support outdoor dining, businesses can request use of a parking space or appeal to planners for an exemption. The rules also specify that barriers, preferably rope or free-standing chain stanchions, be used to mark off a dining area.

For the first time, outdoor dining season also is defined in the new regulations as running from April 1 to Nov. 15. In 2014, 58 restaurants in Portland were granted outdoor seating permits.

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