Lavallette joined a growing number of communities that will allow restaurants to use portions of streets and sidewalks for outdoor dining in order to help the industry rehabilitate from the coronavirus shutdown.
This week, the borough council voted in favor of establishing a system in which restaurants can apply through the municipal government for a permit which would allow the utilization of outdoor areas for dining. Restaurant owners need to complete a drawn-out plan and submit it at town hall, then wait for approval. The borough is setting aside its normal $75 application fee this year.
“We have a procedure in place for outside tables and chairs,” said Mayor Walter LaCicero. “The governor’s executive order gives the borough to expand the footprint. We had discussed changing out the existing ordinance, but this gives us the ability to do it under emergency powers.”
There will be several rules in place that restaurants must follow, the first of which are state regulations on restaurant seating once they are allowed to reopen June 15. The maximum number of a party at a table is eight people, and all tables must be six feet apart from one another. Indoor dining will not be permitted. Self-service of any kind is also banned.
In Lavallette, the borough council also declared one street off-limits due to safety reasons.
“Going onto Grand Central [Route 35 North] is a non-starter,” said LaCicero, adding that any incursion into Route 35 would need separate approval from the state Department of Transportation anyway. The borough is also requiring that restaurants’ outdoor seating plans retain compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act and leave sufficient space for pedestrians and wheelchairs on sidewalks. Restaurants will be able to propose using an area of side streets for outdoor dining, subject to review by the police department and other borough agencies for safety and logistical purposes.
The outdoor seating will not be permanent.
“If, at some point, we go back to our normal, this goes away,” said Councilwoman Joanne Filippone.
Restaurants with liquor licenses need to fill out a separate state ABC form for approval in order to serve drinks outside, and borough officials said local ordinances on open containers of alcohol would remain in place.
“Technically under the law they can’t buy a drink in their container for takeout, and then sit in their car and have a cocktail,” said Filippone. “And they certainly can’t go for a walk up the street to the beach or down to the bay with the open container. There have already been some issues with that, so I think we need to make it very clear to the establishments what the rules are.”
Still, officials said, restaurants are encouraged to submit proposals to the town for approval so they can increase the number of diners during the busy summer season.
“We want to be flexible here,” said LaCicero. “We want these businesses to survive.”