North Castle officials last week explored ways to permanently regulate outdoor dining in town in hopes of finding a balance between helping restaurants and patrons who enjoy the practice and keeping it manageable.
The Town Board scheduled a public hearing for its May 26 meeting that will address some of the issues that accompany outdoor dining, including lights, noise, parking and whether there should be live or recorded music.
Supervisor Michael Schiliro said while outdoor dining has always been popular, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more so. For some establishments, having a workable outdoor dining plan may be a matter of survival if some patrons still don’t feel comfortable returning to an indoor dining room despite capacity restrictions for restaurants being lifted this week.
Building Inspector Robert Melillo and Director of Planning Adam Kaufman have been working together to come up with parameters for dining outside, Schiliro said.
“(They) have been working hard to try and figure out how to expand the outdoor dining piece, do it in a sensible way, having seen what the impacts would be, and in effect, provide help to our restaurants in that it’s an enhancement to their customers’ dining experience and help the customer, the residents and non-residents, that eat at these places that really enjoy it,” said Schiliro.
Kaufman said the current proposal would require the owner of an eatery to apply for a yearly permit from the town’s Building Department. Dining outside would be prohibited from Jan. 2 through Mar. 31. Lighting and music would be permitted as long as it’s not objectionable, he said.
Limiting the hours that music can be played could be a compromise, Kaufman added.
The current code allows for restaurants to double their seating outdoors, but most establishments do not have the space to accommodate that amount of seating, Melillo said.
Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto said the problem with loosening with some of the outdoor dining restrictions is that the most popular times for it is on the weekends, which becomes a headache for the police department.
“I’m just concerned when I think of Armonk and North White Plains and La Cremaillere opening at the end of this month, hopefully (in Banksville), we have a number of restaurants located very, very close to residential properties, and live music tend to be heard,” DiGiacinto said.
Kaufman said the town’s intent is not to degrade any resident’s home life but to try and find a balance between making dining more attractive and preventing a situation from getting out of hand.
“We don’t want to create a situation where we’re ruining or impacting the quality of life,” he said. “That’s what we definitely want to avoid.”
Town officials believed that in most cases parking would not be a problem because dinner hour, typically around 6 or 7 p.m., is after many retail businesses have closed for the evening.
The May 26 public hearing will be part of the regular Town Board meeting that is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.