FLEMINGTON, NJ - The Flemington council enthusiastically supported and approved an ordinance to allow for outdoor dining setups within the borough.

It is anticipated that when restaurants are once again allowed to open their doors to onsite dining, it will be at a reduced capacity. So ordinances amending land use laws to allow for sidewalk seating are being adopted all over New Jersey.

In Flemington, on the advice of the planning board, the opportunity for expanded outdoor seating areas was included in the amended land use law.

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As passed, the ordinance allows for outdoor seating not just in front of the eatery but also in front of adjacent properties with the consent of the owner.  

Mayor Betsy Driver described the optional possibility.

“Basically, what this allows somebody to do is if you have a restaurant that’s next to a clothing store and the clothing store says, ‘sure you can put some tables in front of my shop,’ this language allows that,” she said. “It allows for a little bit of sprawl.”

Although there was a spirited discussion about some of the wording in the ordinance, all agreed that it could be revisited at a later date if needed.  Most important, they confirmed was to get the new ordinance passed as quickly as possible to give restaurants time to make plans, submit the necessary paperwork to the town and receive a permit.  

The $50 permit fee was waived by the council through 2020.  

There may be some businesses whose liquor licenses do not permit service outside, said borough attorney Tara St. Angelo, so they’ll need extra time to submit an application to amend their license.

“It’s important that we’re ahead with this ordinance,” said Councilman Jeremy Long, “and that we get these establishments able to deliver service outside as soon as possible.”

The actual opening of outdoor dining venues will not happen until Gov. Phil Murphy gives the okay. Driver said she expects that to happen, “in the next few days.”

The sidewalk seating arrangements will have to allow for pedestrian pass through, not block driveways or alleyways, and maintain both the ADA and the borough’s 4-foot right-of-way from the curb.  

Driver and Flemington OEM Coordinator Cpl. Brian McNally have made helping businesses in the borough a top priority throughout the pandemic shutdown.  At weekly briefings and updates, reaching out to local retailers has been a constant point of discussion.