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More Outdoor Dining on the Menu?

A Planning and Zoning proposal to loosen regulations governing outdoor dining is on the table. The public can weigh in on April 29 at the P&Z's public hearing. P&Z Chairman Ron Corwin describes the proposal as a "major relaxation" of existing outdoor dining laws. Its biggest change is making take-out establishments eligible for outdoor tables and chairs as well as restaurants. Outdoor dining areas can also be bigger if the proposal is passed, and parking restrictions would be relaxed. Corwin says Oscar's outdoor eating area is a pre-existing non-confirming use, pre-dating the current law.  A P&Z restaurant headcount, he says, came in at 71 but this does not include take-out businesses.

Current zoning regulations limit an allowable outdoor eating area to not more than 20% of a restaurant's inside eating area or six tables "and/or 24 chairs," whichever is less. Also, the zoning code stipulates that additional parking spaces are required if the area is enclosed. Bob LeRose, owner of Bobby Q's Restaurant on Main Street and the Westport Downtown Merchant's Association President, thinks expanding outdoor dining would be a move in the right direction:  making downtown more user-friendly. "It's also important to the town of Westport to enable outdoor diining and be able to become more of a gathering place for people, " he says. "It's just one of many things being talked about for the downtown."

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