Restaurants May Soon Be Able to Offer More Alfresco Dining

by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
SC file photo by Assoc. Publisher Chuck Larsen

Sanibel restaurants, and carry out food places, may soon be able to permanently offer more alfresco dining with bonus outdoor seats. But it would not increase the restaurant’s total number of seats.

Planning Commission unanimously approved city staff recommendations to amend the Land Development Code standards on outdoor seating in its meeting July 27. Under those proposed changes, restaurants would be able to use 15 percent of its total permitted seats (not to exceed 32) as bonus outdoor seating. Carry out food places would have up to 16 bonus seats.

The city has been discussing ways to offer restaurants an easy opportunity to have more outdoor seats since it adopted a pilot program from February to May 2020. And in December 2020, the city implemented temporary regulations on outdoor seating to help mitigate the tough economic impact on restaurants from the health pandemic.

When those temporary regulations expired in May, council directed city staff to review the LDC and make amendment recommendation for Planning Commission to consider.

Planning Supervisor Craig Chandler first presented the city staff’s change recommendations in June to the LDC Review Subcommittee before taking it to Planning Commission in July. And commissioners sought three revisions to the proposed LDC amendments for clarity.

The maximum number of seats allowed was clarified and the definition for bonus outdoor seating and incidental dining was revised. The definition now reads, “bonus outdoor seating, incidental dining means bonus outdoor seating at a restaurant or carry out food store comprised of 16 seats or less.”

Commissioners also wanted an emphasis on short-form permit approval for revising an approved floor plan to relocate indoor seats to outdoor dining.

The recommendations approved by Planning Commission will now make their way to city council as an ordinance for final decision.

Comments (1)

  1. Very good idea to allow for more outdoor dining. After all we DO have a very favorable climate most of the year….but why make it a trade off between indoor and outdoor seating? I know…parking and having more “attraction” to Sanibel. God forbid we made the town more hospitable and at the same time made it easier to get into a restaurant while improving restaurant economic viability. That’s entirely too rational!

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