As fines begin, backlash brews over patio rules for Raleigh bars and restaurants

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — There’s more backlash Tuesday night over new outdoor seating rules in downtown Raleigh.

Several business owners say that it’s cutting into their bottom line and will no longer offer patio seating. Some expect that trend to continue.

“We love being on Fayetteville street. These wide sidewalks are very pedestrian friendly. People like to walk up with their dogs, sit down, have a beer,” said Zack Medford the owner of Paddy O’Beers.

It makes sense to hear the owner of Paddy O’Beers talking about patio seating.

“We called it Paddy O’Beers because we wanted to have an area in Raleigh where you could sit outside on a big patio and enjoy a beer,” Medford said.

But he says Raleigh’s new rules regulating outdoor seating at bars and restaurants is impacting his bottom line.

Zack Medford is applying to keep his outdoor seating permit.

”If we lose our patio, that is our entire business model and Paddy O’Beers will have to close its doors,” Medford said.

City leaders say they are trying to make downtown livable for everyone.

There’s a pilot program, which started in August, that impacts how many people can be at outdoor seating…and the hours they can be there.

People can’t sit outside after midnight Sunday through Thursday or after 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

If businesses are in violation, they will now start being fined.

“As with any new program, there’s certainly going to be a learning curve initially. The city has worked with a number of businesses to try to get them through this learning curve,” Derrick Remer with the City of Raleigh said.

Some business owners say the rules are confusing.

The owner of Crema Ice Cream and Espresso Bar says for him they’re just not feasible.

This is the last day for outdoor seating at Crema.

“I just don’t have the staff here to keep watching and babysitting seats, nor should I have to hire somebody to stand outside and babysit seats. I don’t need bouncers for an ice cream shop,” said Mikhail Jannik owner of Crema Ice Cream And Espresso Bar.

“I would say to that business owner to come to us and talk to us,” Remer said about the situation.

“We never would have opened our business on Fayetteville Street if we knew we couldn’t have outdoor seating,” Medford said.

Medford and his partners were actually cited a couple weeks ago for damaging public property when he says his partners moved a couple of city benches to help keep their seating in compliance.

He says it was an error in judgment and they’re working with the city to fix the situation.

There is a $200 fine for a businesses first violation.

A second violation is a $500 fine and a one-month suspension of its outdoor seating permit.

A third violation is a year revocation of that permit.

Since August 14, during the warning period, there were 43 warnings issued to 30 businesses.

A report will be given to City Council on Nov. 3, who will decide what to do moving forward concerning outdoor seating.

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