At least 10 restaurants in Lancaster city can open new outdoor seating areas today with five others expected to join the list soon.
The 10 eateries, including at least three outside of the central business district, are the first to be approved for special sidewalk cafe permits under an ordinance given final approval Friday by City Council during a special early morning meeting.
The ordinance, which will remain in effect through the end of the year, was passed in expedited fashion in order to help city restaurants take advantage of state guidelines which permit outdoor service in counties that have moved to the yellow phase of the Gov. Tom Wolf’s color coded COVID-19 reopening plan. Lancaster County made the move to yellow today.
A total of 15 restaurants have applied for the special permits thus far, said Stephen Campbell, the city’s director of public works. Following the first reading of the ordinance, which took place on Monday, June 1, the city allowed restaurants to begin applying for the permits, with approvals granted on the condition of the ordinance gaining final council approval during this morning's special meeting.
“Ten have been approved thus far,” Campbell told council prior to the vote. “We expect the rest to be approved today.”
Campbell said a number of other establishments have expressed an interest in applying for the permits, which are free. Permit holders must conform to social distancing and other safety guidelines established by the state Department of Health and the federal Center for Disease Control. Tables and chairs must be located in places approved by city officials and cannot be moved or combined with other tables.
“There has been a lot of interest beyond this first group,” said Campbell. “It is clear the interest is not just this first wave.”
The measure was approved by a unanimous 5-0 vote during the meeting, which was held by teleconference. Council members Xavier Garcia-Molina and Pete Soto were not present.
“The city’s restaurants are appreciative of the city’s efforts,” said Marshall Snively, head of the Lancaster City Alliance, which helped gather input on the plan from restaurant owners in developing the ordinance. “Every day counts for these restaurants.”