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Atlanta Finally Allows City Restaurants the Option to Offer On-Street Dining

The Atlanta City Council approved an ordinance permitting restaurants and bars to expand outdoor seating to city streets

New York City Restaurants Resume Indoor Service At 25% Capacity
People dining outside on the street at a restaurant in New York City
Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images
Beth McKibben is the editor and staff reporter for Eater Atlanta and has been covering food and cocktails locally and regionally for 12 years.

The Atlanta City Council on Monday unanimously approved an ordinance permitting restaurants and bars to offer seating on city streets to “provide safe, socially distant outdoor dining spaces” during the pandemic.

According to the ordinance, street seating must be located in front of or adjacent to a restaurant or bar and cannot exceed more than 50 percent of the total seating capacity for the establishment. Restaurants and bars can offer on-street dining Sunday through Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. Atlanta already allows dining on city sidewalks with a permit.

Restaurants and bars submit an application, along with a site plan that includes furniture placement, to the Atlanta Department of Transportation for approval. The on-street dining permit is good through the end of 2021. For now, ATLDOT plans to waive the permit fee.

The move by the Atlanta City Council and ATLDOT comes months after other cities across the country and the metro area passed similar street and outdoor dining measures for restaurants and bars to safely expand seating options. It’s unclear what delayed the decision to allow Atlanta’s restaurants and bars to do the same, especially as cold weather now makes outdoor dining less feasible.

Eater reached out to ATLDOT commissioner Josh Rowan for comment.

According to a recent COVID-19 impact survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association, 52 percent of Georgia restaurant owners expect sales to continue decreasing over the next quarter, with 27 percent saying they are considering temporarily closing their restaurant until the pandemic ends. Nearly 40 percent of Georgia restaurant owners don’t expect their business to survive another six months without federal aid coming soon from Congress.

Cities throughout metro Atlanta continue stepping up for restaurants and bars to ensure the industry’s survival in communities. Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce and the city’s government just announced a plan to offer restaurants and bars there $5,000 grants to help cover the costs of renewing alcohol licenses for 2021. Over the summer, City of Brookhaven expanded outdoor seating options for restaurants and bars into parking lots and adjacent areas.

The City of Dunwoody CARES Al Fresco Grant reimbursement program assists restaurants and bars with purchasing or renting items, like tents, space heaters, and lighting, for winterizing patios and outdoor seating areas by matching qualifying expenses. In May, the Dunwoody city council voted to unanimously approve a special outdoor dining permit, allowing restaurants and bars to utilize common areas, parkings spaces, and other outside areas approved by the property owner for seating.

Earlier this year, Decatur, Marietta, and Dunwoody became the latest metro area cities to establish entertainment districts with open container policies, permitting restaurants and bars to sell to-go cocktails and other alcoholic beverages.