Trending Legislation: Outdoor Dining

One of the hardest hit lines of business of the pandemic has been the restaurant industry. As of December, 2020 it’s estimated that 17% of all restaurants in the United States (over 110,000) have closed due to the impact of COVID-19. Many municipalities are taking legislative action to try to help local eateries to stay open – and safe.
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Eating Out is Big Business

Dining at a restaurant is a popular American habit that has seen the food service sector grow to become the third largest employment industry in the country, employing more than 15 million people. It’s estimated that pre-pandemic, 20% of the United States population ate out at a full-service restaurant once a week and 83% of American families ate fast food at least once a week.

And Then Along Came COVID

We’re all fully aware of the sudden and extreme effect the COVID-19 pandemic had on ‘normalcy,’ including our ability to gather with friends and family at a favorite dining spot or local bar. Stay at home orders, social distancing, and other health-related restrictions quickly put the kibosh on all of that and sent millions of food service workers home, mostly without pay – and some, whose restaurants were already working with razor thin margins, without jobs to return to.

Dining Out-Doors

As the COVID health crisis has progressed, full-service restaurants have looked to their fast food counterparts to begin offering drive-up, curbside and delivery service in order to keep their businesses afloat. Municipalities have taken up the plight of their local eateries, providing legislative support for changes in food service ordinances and laws. However, ordering takeout has not addressed the need to get waitstaff back to work.

As a result, restaurants and local governments are working together to provide outdoor dining options, where possible. One solution has been making sidewalks and even some parking spaces available for seating and serving. While not ideal, especially in the northeast during winter months, it has allowed some dining establishments to remain open and even bring back some of their employees. In these exceptionally challenging economic times, even seemingly small moves like this can mean the difference between a business surviving and shuttering.

Useful examples from the eCode360® Library

If your community is interested in legislating to provide outdoor dining opportunities for your local restaurants, here are some useful examples that can be found in our eCode360 Library:

City of Havre de Grace, MD (Harford) – Executive Orders: Allow Temporary Outdoor Dining 

City of Lancaster, PA (Lancaster) – Covid-19 Outdoor Retail Ordinance

Updating Municipal Codes is Vitally Important

As local governments continue to adjust and transform digitally to the ever-shifting needs of the COVID-19 era, keeping municipal codes updated has become more essential than ever. It’s important to sustain orderly and accessible knowledge of the most current regulations and resolutions in a timely manner.

We encourage our clients to submit code updates as soon as possible to make sure constituents and local government officials are always referencing and working with the most up-to-date resources. Clients can send legislation to [email protected].

Best Practices for Managing Your Codification Budget

Many of our client communities find it helpful to be on a code update schedule to help manage their budgets throughout the year. Our Client Care Advocates can work with you and explain the options and benefits of scheduled code updates. Give them a call at 800.836.8834 or send an email to [email protected]. They’d be happy to help or answer any other codification questions you might have.


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