Regulatory doors opened to outdoor dining

The Hinsdale Village Board is taking steps to support outdoor dining beyond just a temporary response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At their Tuesday board meeting, trustees signaled support for an ordinance that would allow restaurants to use village street and sidewalk areas for dining from April through October. Accompanying the ordinance is a set of design standards for tables, chairs and other elements that the businesses would need to comply with “in order to control for quality aesthetics and uniformity through the Central Business District,” according a board memo from village planner Bethany Salmon and assistant to the village manager Trevor Bosack.

Tents would not be allowed in the right-of-way, but businesses would be able to personalize seating and umbrella styles within the parameters of the rough design standards.

“It’ll be a nice look so when you drive down First Street, you see all these restaurants that will have a certain uniformity about them,” said Village President Tome Cauley.

The village also might provide special lighting.

“Currently the village is considering purchasing lights, assembling mounting poles and installing café-style lights in the outdoor dining locations,” the staff memo stated. This would provide consistency, uniformity and controlled installation.

Outdoor dining program participants must obtain a $100 permit annually and pay fees of $25 per table on the sidewalk and $50 per table on the street.

In presenting the proposed ordinance, Trustee Neale Byrnes said it has the backing of the business community.

“All involved shareholders are highly supportive of this initiative, and the restaurant owners in particular are very excited about this venture,” Byrnes said.

The ordinance is expected to be approved after a second read at the board’s Tuesday, April 26, meeting.

In a related move, trustees on Tuesday also approved the purchase of 104 black planters to serve as protective barriers for the right-of-way dining areas. The planters will replace the concrete jersey barriers that have served that purpose during the pandemic but have gotten low marks in the cosmetic department.

“They provide the safety you need, but they’re ugly,” Cauley said.

The cost for the planters is $55,458. They will be made of dyed black concrete and have a smooth finish.

Cauley said the goal of these measures is to respond to the success of the al fresco option in a manner that doesn’t detract from the downtown’s charm.

“What we’re trying to do is permit outdoor dining and allow the restaurants to individualize their outdoor setting but provide standards so we have some control over it,” Cauley said. He acknowledged that changes may be required as the program unfolds.

“There may be things that we modify as we go along,” he said. “This is somewhat of a work in progress.”

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean