CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Under a proposed planning bill, the city of Charleston would buy and maintain fencing for restaurants that want to offer outdoor dining to customers.Members of Charleston City Council's planning committee met Thursday night to tweak the regulations they passed a year ago that govern outdoor dining in the city's central business district.So far, only two restaurants along Capitol Street offer fenced-in outdoor dining -- Bar 101/Ichiban and Adelphia Sports Bar & Grille. There would be more if the cost of installing the fencing weren't so high.So City Planner David Molgaard came up with a compromise. The city agrees to purchase, install and maintain fencing for restaurants if the restaurant owners agree to pay an annual $500 administrative fee.
"We don't want to discourage people because of the cost, but we want to make sure they have some skin in the game," Molgaard said.Restaurants that want outdoor dining, but no fencing, would only pay $50 a year.The city's goal is not to recoup costs with the $500 fee but to ensure that the restaurants make use of their outdoor dining areas, Molgaard said.The city would ensure that the fencing is uniform throughout downtown and creates a standard, signature look. Councilman Courtney Persinger said he's currently looking at different fencing and would have some options to choose from before the bill goes before the Finance Committee.It would cost about $4,000 to $5,000 per fence, but that does not include the cost of labor or regular maintenance."We can cover these costs in our budget," Molgaard said.Also in the proposed bill is a requirement to widen the minimum 36-inch-wide free sidewalk area between the fence and curb to 42 inches. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires at least 36 inches for wheelchair accessibility.The proposed bill also adds language that bans smoking in outdoor dining areas, as required by the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department's clean indoor-air regulation."This creates a very bright line prohibiting smoking in these areas," Molgaard said.During the meeting, Deno Stanley, owner of Adelphia, and Scott Miller, owner of Bar 101/Ichiban, spoke in its favor. They both plan on keeping their outdoor dining areas for years to come.However, Miller asked why he had to pay the $500 required administrative fee when he already invested more than $2,000 to put his own fencing up last year.
"That's $2,000 worth of fencing that I won't be able to use," he said.Councilman Andy Richardson agreed, saying it wouldn't be fair to charge Stanley and Miller fees for 2013 since they were the city's test subjects."If it weren't for these two men then there would be no outdoor dining in Charleston," he said.Molgaard also agreed and drafted an amendment to waive the $500 administrative fee for any restaurant offering outdoor dining in 2012, which would cover both Bar 101/Ichiban and Adelphia.Stanley later asked about his liability if a customer were to be injured on the sidewalk or near the fencing.The city would only accept liability for issues that arise when it comes to installing or maintaining the fencing, Molgaard said.
The proposed bill will be presented to council's finance committee for final approval before it's put up to a vote before city council next month.Reach Travis Crum at firstname.lastname@example.org