NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – A decade ago North Plainfield decided to allow local restaurants to serve food and non-alcoholic drinks on the sidewalks outside their stores. Due to some controversy over allowing businesses to take over part of the public sidewalk the Council decided to limit the permits to the months of May through October.
That’s about to change.
Next week Councilman Larry LaRonde will be introducing an ordinance to allow restaurants annual permits so that they can decided when to give outdoor seating.
“Restaurants should be able to make these decisions on their own,” said LaRonde. “Say there’s a beautiful day in February and they want to open up?”
Council President Doug Singleterry supports the ordinance and expects it to pass easily.
“Rather than specifying the months, cafe's will be able to determine for themselves whether to have outdoor dining depending on the weather,” said Singleterry. “Micromanagement is not something government does well.”
In 2013 only one restaurant issued for a sidewalk café permit, at Family BBQ on Somerset Street. In previous years Mrs. G’s, a bagel shop by the Somerset Street overpass, had filed but it was sold last year and was not open during the months where sidewalk cafés are permitted.
New owner Peter Eddy, who renamed the deli Eddy’s Kitchen, intends to file for outdoor seating this year. He sees it as a way to offer more options to his customers.
“We should let people decide on their own if they want to sit outside in the cold,” said Eddy. “Or if they want to take their coffee outside for a cigarette they should have a seat available.”
Tables and chairs will still be required to be on the sidewalk only during serving hours, and must be brought in within a half-hour of closing. Additionally, at least four feet of sidewalk must be available to pedestrians at all times.
One restaurant in town, The Brook on the corner of Grove Street and Greenbrook Road, has outdoor seating all year around. The Brook is not covered by the ordinance because the tables are on the restaurant’s property and not a sidewalk and they received permission to build the deck during the town’s planning process for their building.
“We let our customers sit outside any time they want,” said owner Lino Pinho. “It’s their choice whether they want to eat indoors or out, and if they want to be outside on a nice fall day they should be allowed to.”
The seating area has had a lot of use this spring as the weather has warmed up with students from North Plainfield High School coming by after classes are let out.