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Pittsburgh City Council To Consider Legislation That Makes Outdoor Dining Permanent

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Pittsburgh City Council will consider a new piece of legislation that would make a temporary solution, made to help restaurants to survive the pandemic, a permanent one.

A proposed bill by Councilmembers Bobby Wilson and Anthony Coghill would allow restaurants and retailers to apply for a permit from the city that authorizes them to make sales on the sidewalk and street a permanent fixture. On Wednesday, council moved the legislation out of the committee for a vote.

The option for Pittsburgh restaurants to extend dining outdoors was originally a measure enacted by city leaders during the pandemic under the now-expired emergency declaration.

And as the pandemic drags on and concerns loom over dining indoors, restaurant owners are hopeful the bill will pass. Restaurant owner Todd Mathias said the pandemic has sliced his downtown business in half, as closed office buildings continue to keep much of his workforce customers at home and others remain hesitant about dining indoors.

So, when available, his customers tend to favor al fresco.

"When it is open, those are the seats everybody picks first," said Mathias, owner of August Henry's Burger Bar. "And there's limited seating there too."

Around the corner at Redbeard's Bar and Grill, the outdoor dining experience has been red hot.

"Not everybody feels as comfortable eating inside as you would think," said general manager Brent Kightlinger.

In fact, the restaurant's 10-table outdoor dining space has been such a hit that Kightlinger added a heated shed to sell hot beverages during the holidays. He also has another update that people can cheers to.

"I just had a meeting with the (Liquor Control Board) to extend our liquor permit to this space so we can sell alcoholic drinks out here," Kightlinger said.

If outdoor dining becomes permanent in the city, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership will consider working with the city to add sidewalk extensions and improvements to enhance the experience.

"There's a lot of activities that happen on our streets. There are deliveries and vehicle traffic and bike traffic and accessibility concerns that are really important for us to ensure that whatever is done to make it more permanent, really thinks through, holistically, how the place operates," said Chris Watts, VP of District Development for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

The PDP said these improvements would likely be made in areas like 6th Street and the 900 block of Penn Avenue, which have become key outdoor dining destinations.

City council will vote on the proposed ordinance next Tuesday.

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