New outdoor dining standards earn five stars

Before long, the streets of downtown Hinsdale will be dotted with brightly colored umbrellas as restaurants resume al fresco dining.

OK, the umbrellas won’t be brightly colored (the village prefers neutral tones). But the overall appearance of outdoor eating areas will improve greatly, thanks to a new permit application process and design standards implemented by the Hinsdale Village Board.

One of the biggest — and best, in our opinion — changes will be the elimination of the concrete jersey barriers to separate dining areas from car traffic. The village has spent more than $55,000 for concrete planter boxes that will serve the dual purpose of protecting diners and beautifying the outdoor seating areas.

The new rules also prohibit tents on the village right-of-way (Guiliano’s tent is on private property). The tents served an important purpose while indoor dining was limited due to COVID-19, but they did interfere with the attractive streetscape that makes downtown Hinsdale so charming. They also made it hard for out-of-town shoppers to find some of the stores they were seeking to patronize.

In addition to the planters, the village is buying lights for restaurants whose outdoor areas will be open at night — Fuller House, Il Poggiolo, Nabuki, Sauced Pizzeria and Vistro — to create a uniform look throughout the central business district.

Restaurants also must comply with design standards that specify the type of furniture, heaters and umbrellas that can be used in outdoor areas. Host stations, sofas, outdoor fire tables, music, speakers, televisions and projectors are all prohibited.

Initial plans had called for the village to spend about $150,000 to purchase decking for eating areas that would be located in the street. Bids came in high, however, and there were some design and timing issues that have put this idea on hold for most areas. Officials continue to consider possibilities for the sloped areas outside Vistro and Sauced on Washington Street.

Although the village board approved permits for eight restaurants last night (the five listed above plus Altamura, Cafe la Fortuna and Page’s), it will take some time to prepare and install the planter boxes and for staff to complete its administrative review and make sure all fees have been paid.

The $100 application fee and $25 (sidewalk) to $50 (street) per table fees will help cover staffing costs but will not cover the cost of the program. The amount the village is spending on planters, lighting and landscaping — more than $85,000 — is its investment in the business community.

We hope residents will make an investment as well, patronizing Hinsdale restaurants and enjoying their outdoor eating areas during the warm summer months. Bon appetit!