Outdoor dining plans get trustees' nod

Hinsdale trustees Tuesday approved several outdoor dining permits as local eateries look to capitalize on the al fresco enthusiasm that’s been a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The permit applications were submitted with plans for each business’s outdoor space. Under an ordinance enacted last month, restaurants were granted continued use of downtown parking areas to set up their tables and chairs. The measure also established design guidelines to promote a more uniform look across the business district.

“We found out that customers really like outdoor dining,” said Trustee Neale Byrnes before reviewing each restaurant’s plan. “We have developed standards because you need some rules to live by.”

Permits, subject to final issuance by the village’s community development department, were approved for Altamura Pizza, Café La Fortuna, Fuller House, Il Poggiolo Ristorante, Nabuki, Page’s, Sauced Pizzeria and Vistro Prime. The outdoor spaces will be enclosed with black planter boxes that the village purchased to replace the concrete jersey barriers employed the last two years to separating the dining areas from vehicular traffic.

On April 26, the board approved a text amendment to allow for outdoor dining on sidewalks and streets in the village right-of-way. Businesses must apply for a permit and, once issued, set up their outdoor dining area in accordance with the approved plans and pass a final inspection.

At the end of the outdoor dining season, which runs from April 1 to Oct. 31, the business must remove all furniture and fixtures from the area. Permits are only valid for a calendar year, and businesses must reapply each year.

Byrnes acknowledged that there may be tweaks to the regulations as the season unfolds.

“This is still a work in progress. It’s probably not going to be perfect this year, and there’ll surely be some additional lessons learned,” he said.

Asked by restaurant owners when they could start setting up, Trevor Bosack, assistant to the village manager, said plants would be picked up May 18 to be placed in the planter boxes.

“We’ll be starting to lay out the sites as permits are approved,” Bosack said. “As those permits get issued, we’ll start to look at how we can deploy our public services to get the planter boxes to the appropriate sites.”

Asked if June 1 was the target, he replied, ‘Sooner than that if permits are approved.”

Business owners expressed appreciation for the village’s early support of outdoor dining.

“What the village did the last two years was amazing, to be out ahead of any other municipality in allowing this to happen,” Nabuki general manager Stephen DeKoker said.

Byrnes said the restaurants have been good partners.

“The village staff and the village board want you, the restaurant owners, to be successful,” he said. “Whatever the village can do to make this happen, we’re ready to do so.”

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean