Raleigh recommends shorter hours for sidewalk food and alcohol

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Protesters at meeting for shorter alcohol serving times for sidewalk tables in Raleigh (WTVD)

A city committee is now recommending Raleigh businesses that serve mainly alcohol not be allowed to serve people at sidewalk tables up to 2 a.m.

At the conclusion of the Law and Public Safety Committee meeting Tuesday, members made a unanimous decision on a six-month trial that will shut down patio food and beverage service at midnight on weeknights, 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and limit the amount of outdoor seating.

The debate over how bars and restaurants use public sidewalks started when the city began receiving complaints over noise and litter. While it turns out only a handful of people have been behind those complaints, city leaders agree it's time for the city to enforce its own rules.

Bar owners, employees, and patrons alike stood at a meeting Tuesday sending a clear message to city leaders they were there to 'save the patios.'

"That's the beauty of Raleigh," Zack Medford, a downtown Raleigh bar owner, told committee members during the comments portion of the meeting. "It's a beautiful city. We like to be outside."

Medford came up with the slogan "Save the Patios" when the city council started tackling the issue of private businesses using public sidewalks to serve alcohol until 2 a.m.

"The self-regulation experiment has failed," said Wayne Maiorano, City Councilor. "And the enforcement by the city has failed."

Now, committee members are recommending a 6-month trial of enforcement in response to complaints of noise and litter detracting from an otherwise untarnished downtown.

On Tuesday, staff revealed that since June 1 they've received 30 complaints, but only from a handful of people.

"I would say that they have come directly to us, probably five different people," Marchell Adams David, Asst. City Manager for Community explained as Council Member Mary-Ann Baldwin banged the gavel twice to quiet the crowd that erupted in laughter.

Arguing the brunt of revenue is made between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., most business owners in attendance pleaded to keep their outdoor hours of operation intact.

"They wouldn't close out and go inside," predicted Kenneth Yowell, owner of downtown Raleigh restaurants Calavera Empanadas and Tequila and Oak City Meatball Shoppe. "They close out and they leave and consequently they would come to downtown less and less."

Andrew Stewart with Empire Eats, parent company of The Raleigh Times Bar, sided with those who want a quieter downtown.

"Eliminating sidewalk seating after midnight would be a financial hardship for our business, but we're willing to sacrifice on that if it's for the greater good of the community," he said.

The committee is also recommending the city come up with a communication plan to foster better relations between city leaders, law enforcement, and merchants.

"I think this is a compromise," Baldwin told the crowd. "Probably everybody is leaving here unhappy and I guess that means we did our job."

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