Al fresco dining could be moving closer to the street, including onto sidewalks, at some restaurants in the city of Atlanta in the future.

“If we want a city where our street life matches our skyline, we must design and activate public space with people in mind,” District 2 Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi said in a news release. “Sidewalk dining is a characteristic of great cities across the world. Nothing brings people together like food.”

At its meeting Nov. 4 at City Hall, the council unanimously approved right-of-way dining (Legislative Reference No. 19-O-1354). The ordinance creates a process to permit outdoor dining in the public right-of-way, like sidewalks, as long as there is enough pedestrian clearance and zoning allowance. Patrons can currently eat and drink outside on private property. The move into publicly owned space is the main change.

Farokhi said the bill, which had seven co-sponsors, is an important step forward culturally for the city, adding council members had been working on it for a decade.

“There’s been an appetite to do this for some time,” he said. “In fact, the first version of this bill came up in 2009. This was the fourth and, thankfully, final effort, to get it right. The law department and department of public works really rolled up their sleeves as did a number of community improvement districts. The bill was reviewed and approved by three separate council committees, and the NPU (Neighborhood Planning Unit) system. A public hearing was held. All told, this was a nearly yearlong effort.”

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