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Sidewalk Dining: Too Close For Comfort?

Despite citizen complaint that prompted police warning, no restaurants were found to be in violation of Village Code on Tarrytown's Main Street.

Though conditions may seem tight on Main Street, with sidewalk dining sometimes crowding the narrow sidewalks, no establishments have been found to be in violation of Village Code.

There was a police blotter entry a few weeks back that listed several restaurants – , , – questioning the legality of their outdoor dining. But according to Village Administrator Mike Blau these establishments all were found to have the proper permits with none in violation of the local law.

"A call was received that the particular locations did not have a sidewalk café permit," said Blau. "All of the establishments had a permit. Police Department found no issues."

Nonetheless (and due to reader request), we thought a code review might be in order. One woman fell into trash on the sidewalk a while ago when she stepped back to take a photograph, and several others have protested that some areas are just too tight on already tight sidewalks.

According to Chapter 247 on Sidewalk Codes and Vending, the laws regulating sidewalk dining are meant to provide space for pedestrian passage, sufficient access to adjacent businesses, all while keeping a “visually appealing” presentation.

By definition, a sidewalk café is:

An outdoor dining area located on a public sidewalk, which is public through dedication or easement, or a public right-of-way that provides waiter or waitress service and contains readily removable tables, chairs and railings and may contain planters. It is otherwise unenclosed by fixed walls and open to the air, except that it may have umbrellas.

There can, by code, be no permanent structures dilineating the outdoor space, but planters or rails can be used as a barrier.

Vendors are required to secure a permit for the privilege of sidewalk usage, available for the period from April 1 through November 30.

Permits can be issued as long as the distance from the sidewalk abutting the property to the curbline is at least 10 feet.

And, most importantly, there are rules regarding the minium "clear distance" for passage.

There shall be a minimum clear distance, exclusive of the area occupied by the sidewalk cafe, free of all obstructions (such as trees, parking meters, utility poles, streetlights, etc.) in order to allow adequate pedestrian movement. The minimum amount of clear distance is noted below:

Width of Sidewalk Minimum Clear Distance (feet) 10 feet to 14 feet 11 inches        3 15 feet to 19 feet 11 inches 5 20 feet and above 10

Finally, the applicant must file a $1 million dollar general liability insurance policy and close the sidewalk portion of their business by midnight each night.

Have you found the restaurants on Main to abide by the 3 feet minimum or have you experienced otherwise? Any complaints with sidewalk dining in the village, or do you just enjoy it? Weigh in here.

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RiverMosaic September 10, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Interesting. I have been concerned with the location of some of the donated bike racks. They have been a welcome addition to the village, but I think many are poorly placed and create more of a hazard than the outdoor dining. I want them to stay, but wish the village would have been smarter when locating them. The village never responded to my concerns which were voiced shortly after they were installed.
joy September 10, 2012 at 06:37 PM
I am a big fan of the sidewalk cafes but there needs to be more clearance in the code. Realistically we are not always talking about the need for two adults to pass by each other – you have to consider that some of the people on the sidewalk have a stroller, dog, or are holding a child’s hand. And that some people need apparatus – a walker, wheelchair or arm of another when they navigate through town. In addition, often the restaurants do not have sufficient space for waiting patrons and their staff, which also eats up sidewalk space for passerbys.
joy September 10, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Great article - very helpful
Bjorn Olsson September 10, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Maybe this question could be turned upside down? I think the outdoor seating creates a wonderful atmosphere, and I am sure the increased capacity is something that helps merchants get through the long cold winter months. At the same time, we all want there to be enough comfortable clearance for foot traffic, and maybe wheelchair traffic in particular. So what to do? We HAVE one of the best little downtowns in Westchester, and it keeps getting better. To help encourage this change, would it be possible to widen the sidewalks a couple of feet? I always thought it would be really cool to have the block between John St and Washington St be turned into a pedestrian street, basically a plaza, but this might be an uphill battle, I suppose.
Krista Madsen (Editor) September 10, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Pedestrian-only would be amazing. Good idea. Others?
DeeplyConcernedabout T-town September 10, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Main Street is too narrow and already crowded. Too many cars parl illegally already. In addition, how would the emergency services get to an emergency in this area? Also with Kaldenberg and John being one way streets and VERY narrow, again, emergency vehicles would have a difficult time with access. Since the village has investigated the situation and found that all is in accord, time to end the questions.
kd September 10, 2012 at 10:12 PM
My question is this. What about the fees/revenues that are associated to this. If this was private property people would have to pay a cost that was relative to the value. These spaces are generating revenue for the businesses but not for the town. If someone wanted to use my front lawn to make money I would ask for a revenue share or charge a fair market value for the use of the space. The town is allowing in some cases the doubling of a restaurants square footage without recompense. That does not seem fair or right for the taxpaying residents who must pay to maintain and pay again to eat on town space.
Bjorn Olsson September 10, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Naturally, all such concerns would have to be addressed before any changes can be made. Everything starts with a vision, if enough people buy into it, you can make it happen.
WWTTOWN September 11, 2012 at 11:34 AM
Whatever the clearance requirements, there are some passageways that are just too narrow. Any reasonable person can see that. The code should be adjusted to allow more space but still preserve the ability for these restaurants to have outdoor dining in the warmer months. And there should be a fee for the permit since they are using public space to generate business.
George September 11, 2012 at 12:16 PM
On a warm weekend I see the corner of Main St. and Broadway at the Greek restaurant on the corner very crowded with pedestrians just trying to get by and patrons waiting for a table at the curb. Mix in the traffic on Rt.9 and It seems like an accident waiting to happen.
loretta September 11, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Living in one of the most loveliest towns in America is a great honor. The sidewalk dining adds to the character of our town along with its townspeople. Let’s not forget that many visitors travel to TT just to be part of our town even if it’s just for an evening. How about thinking of closing a few streets on Main to give more space for walking with families and pets. We may be giving up some parking spaces but our stores would benefit from the foot traffic for sure.
Scott Croft September 12, 2012 at 12:58 PM
I greatly enjoy the outside dining options. Yes, they pinch a little sidewalk space but they make Tarrytown a thriving community. The alternative is to have a ghost town.
Patricia September 12, 2012 at 07:05 PM
The complaint about the sidewalk dining was not a civilian complaint, it came from one of the Village Trustees. I don't know why he is harassing the village shop owners. They contribute greatly to the Village. He has a business and I wonder if he gets bothered by the police?
Janet Hogan Herrera September 12, 2012 at 08:33 PM
I find that the outside dining gives the village a "European" feel. The casual and friendly ambiance is inviting to visitors and patrons alike. I am from Montreal and we have had outside dining forever! Some establishments even have their outside tables on cobblestone streets that are closed off for the summer!
On Broadway September 12, 2012 at 09:58 PM
I love the idea of a pedestrian street! That would be so great. It would be nice if there was a place for people to picnic as well.
On Broadway September 12, 2012 at 10:03 PM
I love the outdoor dining as long as they adhere to the rules, and it seems like they are. My only concern is the one restaurant that has their iron divider bolted to the sidewalk. Makes it seem more like a permanent structure and not easily moved. All the others are moveable.
T-Town Mom September 24, 2012 at 12:27 AM
What about the obnoxious "planter" outside Rose Nail? There is alo a tree there. The planter sticks out like a sore thumb. Anyone wheeling a stroller has to negotiate with oncoming walkers. Get rid of it!

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