For a third time since the pandemic began, the Scarsdale Board of Trustees Jan. 12 voted unanimously to extend two provisions that allow restaurants to offer outdoor dining and allow downtown merchants to sell goods on sidewalks.
The trustees also approved an amendment that would allow any merchant, street-facing or not, to have a table on a sidewalk to sell wares.
Previously, the village only allowed merchants that were street-facing and on the ground floor to sell on sidewalks.
When the amendment to chapter 256 was first brought up during a public hearing in June, Black Birch Lane resident Bob Berg and Fox Meadow Road resident Bob Harrison voiced their support for the village to include non-street-facing businesses in the sidewalk provision.
Following the public hearing, the board voted unanimously to amend chapter 256, but to only allow ground floor, street-facing businesses to display and sell goods on village-owned sidewalks or other open spaces. The proposal had a sunset provision that was meant to expire on Nov. 1 but it was extended in October to the end of December.
Trustee Justin Arest, who serves on the village reopening task force (VRTF), said the village didn’t receive any requests from businesses not on the ground floor and street facing who wanted to display wares on village sidewalks. The change occurred, he said, because the task force wanted to provide every option available to merchants.
Interested merchants will need to obtain permission from their landlord prior to setting up a table and will not be allowed to obstruct another tenant’s space.
While extending the sidewalk-use amendments in chapter 256 in October, the board also extended provisions set out in chapter 245 of the village law, which includes regulations for outdoor restaurant seating.
With indoor capacity restricted during the pandemic, restaurants were forced to use limited outdoor space to serve customers and maintain social distancing requirements. When the trustees decided to extend permits to Dec. 31, they included new provisions to ensure public safety with winter temperatures: If restaurants want to install propane heaters for patrons to stay warm during cold weather, they need to send a request to the village and have the heaters inspected by the fire inspector, building inspector and village engineer. Propane heaters aren’t allowed under tents or near flammable items, they can’t contain more than 20 pounds of fuel, and they must be positioned around tents and away from traffic.
Permits for outdoor dining will be available from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 and sidewalk cafes will need to be removed by January 2022.
“I’m not sure if any of us ever expected to be advocating for sidewalk dining in January, but it couldn’t be more important,” said Arest. “We need to support our restaurants and try to help them survive. These months could be the most difficult time … for them.”
Sidewalk cafes will still need to follow the same rules, including closing by 10 p.m. and neatly stacking, bundling or storing sidewalk café furnishings when the establishment is closed.
Scarsdale Business Alliance co-president Marcy Berman-Goldstein praised the village for working with the merchants to continue the code changes.
“There has been a tremendous amount of positive feedback from the business community and from our patrons,” said Berman-Goldstein. “The ability to dine and shop outside has allowed us to serve our customers safely. Now more than ever we need to continue to support our local restaurants and shops.”