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With the advent of sturdier barriers around outdoor dining tables, the city of Hendersonville is wading into a study of the sidewalk space and considering city code changes.
The city's downtown advisers began their first look at possible city code changes last month. Two restaurants, the Dugout in the 400 block and Never Blue in the 100 block, have replaced rope partitions with heavier wooden barriers that surround their sidewalk dining tables.
Main Street Development Director Lew Holloway said any regulations would address a need to accommodate pedestrian circulation, meet state and local requirements and ensure that sidewalk dining is compatible with the character of downtown.
"The streetscape design, the esthetic appeal and look and feel of the district is one of the things people enjoy about our community," Holloway said. "The design committee is interested in laying a framework but also very interested in continuing to encourage creativity."
The city's Downtown Design Committee will first draft proposed changes, which then would go to the Downtown Advisory Committee and potentially the Planning Board before final approval by the City Council. Proposed standards would apply on Main Street between Seventh Avenue and Allen Street.
"I will send the proposed guidelines right to downtown restaurant owners with outdoor dining and say, 'This is what we are discussing, is there anything here that is a real red flag for you guys?' We will try to identify any things that are going to be a challenge for business owners," said Holloway. "That step is really important because every community has unique elements and unique characteristics and it is always good to hear from people who are actually operating the spaces."
The proposed regulations are expected to address minimum and maximum barricade heights, visibility through and around barricades and materials used to construct barricades. They would also ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ensuring enough room for pedestrians and wheelchairs and making sure that barricade bases do not pose a trip hazard.
"Any changes required of a business owner could be implemented over time," said Holloway. "We would not want to enforce some sort of significant cost or significant requirement for major changes on our existing businesses."
The Dugout Sports Bar and Grill constructed its new barricade in February.
"I think it is perceived very well, we get a lot of compliments on it," said Sam Hare, a Dugout bartender. "It really does seem like there are more people eating outside since the new barricade was built."
"I think it is the prettiest one on Main Street," added assistant manager Jordan Mills.
No matter now imposing they look, the barriers must be movable. City code requires property owners to take them down for the four-day Apple Festival over Labor Day weekend and the Trick or Treat Street at Halloween.
Hendersonville's wide sidewalks and the Main Street makeover have given restaurateurs the opportunity to expand.
"It's definitely a benefit for the individual restaurants because they are able to increase seating area, which means they can increase the number of diners they can serve at one time, so that's a profit-making opportunity," Holloway said. "Outdoor dining also has a positive impact on the feel of downtown through the activity and energy it brings to the street. Just how valuable that is we've all said all along."