Naperville widens sidewalk space needed at outdoor cafes

  • Downtown Naperville restaurants with outdoor seating on city sidewalks, such as The Craftsman by Two Brothers at 16 W. Jefferson Ave., now must provide a 6-foot-wide area outside of their tables and chairs for pedestrians to pass by. The width was expanded from the 5 feet required last year.

      Downtown Naperville restaurants with outdoor seating on city sidewalks, such as The Craftsman by Two Brothers at 16 W. Jefferson Ave., now must provide a 6-foot-wide area outside of their tables and chairs for pedestrians to pass by. The width was expanded from the 5 feet required last year. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer June 2017

 
 
Updated 3/26/2018 1:30 PM

Safety, convenience, accessibility, profitability and the sanctity of the sidewalk as public space were all woven into a Naperville City Council discussion about outdoor dining.

The question was whether to increase the walkway width that must be provided next to any outdoor dining on a downtown city sidewalk, instead of on a private patio.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The answer was yes, by one foot, under an ordinance amendment that gives downtown cafes the ability to apply for a sidewalk use permit that lasts April 1 through Nov. 1.

Restaurants that want seating on city sidewalks outside their shops will need to provide at least 6 contiguous feet of walkway, unimpeded by tables, chairs, fencing or landscaping.

Restaurants that want a $500 liquor license to serve on sidewalks must provide a minimum of 6 feet, but also required to provide 8 feet, if possible.

City council members stopped short of requiring a full 8-foot walking area in all cases because that much space isn't available in front of many restaurants that might like to offer a place for customers to eat outside.

For example, Quiubo at 120 Water St., only has 5 feet available and will be exempt.

"All of the sites seem to be a little different and a little odd," council member John Krummen said. "Trying to apply a uniform rule is going to be difficult."

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Members of the accessible community task force and senior task force requested the wider 8-foot passage area because they said it's difficult for two people using wheelchairs or walkers to navigate without such space.

"People are going both directions on a sidewalk -- not one way," said Barbara Stark, a member of the city's accessible community task force. "More width is necessary when there are tables and chairs in front of an eating establishment."

Council member Rebecca Boyd-Obarski said the decision had to balance the needs of people with disabilities, the safety of all pedestrians in the downtown, the desire to create a favorable and enjoyable business environment and the question of whether a private business should be able to use public sidewalk space.

"Aren't we fortunate that we have sidewalks everyone wants to use," council member Judith Brodhead said. "We're a lucky city."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Last year, two downtown restaurants -- Quiubo and The Craftsman by Two Brothers at 16 W. Jefferson Ave. -- received liquor licenses to serve alcohol and food at tables on city sidewalks. The permits expire March 31, which is why they came up for discussion last week.

The new rules that widen the required passage area will expire in 13 months, on April 30, 2019, so the council plans to take another look at the issue next year.

By that time, council members also will have reviewed a downtown streetscape plan that is expected to guide renovations to sidewalks during the next five or more years.

Allison Laff, deputy director of transportation, engineering and development, said the council is likely to begin review of the streetscape plan in April or May. The plan calls for 8-foot-wide sidewalks in many locations, paved with more concrete and less brick for easier use by people riding in wheelchairs, pushing strollers or wearing high heels.

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