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Brookhaven Gets Creative With Its New Outdoor Dining Permit for the City’s Restaurants

The permit is designed to provide reopened restaurants with a safe alternative to dining rooms

Banquette seating
Inside the dining room at Brookhaven-based restaurant Arnette’s Chop Shop
Arnette’s Chop Shop

Restaurants in Brookhaven, just north of Atlanta, can now apply for the city’s new Temporary Outdoor Restaurant Operations Permit. The no-cost permit allows restaurants to utilize tents, parking lots, and other outdoor spaces as potential seating areas that might not otherwise fall under the city’s current code ordinances.

The one-page, 90-day permit requires permission from the landlord and a site plan for the potential setup of outdoor seating. Once completed, the permit application can be emailed to Planning@BrookhavenGA.gov, and takes up to 48 hours to process.

Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst hopes this temporary outdoor permit provides a safe dining room alternative for restaurants that wish to reopen for dine-in service.

“There are a lot of studies out right now stating that being outside and in the sunlight could help limit the spread of COVID-19,” he tells Eater Atlanta of the impetus behind the new permit. “Since the governor’s guidelines state that no more than ten people per 500 square feet can dine within a space, we thought, let’s change the denominators for restaurants by allowing them more dining space outside, and serving people in a safer environment.”

Brookhaven establishes guidelines & temp permits for restaurants -- Mayor’s executive order allows alfresco experience...

Posted by City of Brookhaven, Georgia on Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Recent studies indicate people may be more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 within enclosed spaces, such as restaurant dining rooms. On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he would close up to 100 miles of city streets to provide residents with more space to practice safe social distancing during the ongoing pandemic. Street closures could also offer more outdoor seating to New York restaurants.

Brookhaven’s temporary outdoor dining permit comes in response to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s latest order allowing the state’s restaurants to resume dine-in service this week, as long as establishments meet a list of 39 required guidelines to achieve “minimum basic operations.”

Atlanta restaurant owners were quick to react to the controversial reopening news last week, with some calling Gov. Kemp’s decision “irresponsible,” “unsafe,” and “unfathomable.” Despite the ability to resume dine-in service, there’s a long and growing list of Atlanta-area restaurants choosing not to reopen right now. Most restaurant owners cite the health and safety of employees and patrons as the biggest factor for holding off on reopening for dine-in service, along with the need for adequate time to put the governor’s new guidelines into practice.

Mayor Ernst says he was frustrated by the lack of lead time the governor provided local municipalities to help assist restaurants and businesses with putting the state-mandated COVID-19 guidelines in place.

Gov. Kemp’s latest executive order supersedes any similar orders mandated on the local level, and restricts local leaders, like Mayor Ernst and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, from implementing more rigid safety measures for businesses and restaurants in their cities. Brookhaven and Atlanta have a combined population of over 555,000 people.

“This new regulation is one that could benefit everyone and help Brookhaven’s restaurants create a unique dining experience, while also potentially saving lives by promoting maximum social distancing,” Mayor Ernst says.

Eater Atlanta reached out to Mayor Bottoms to ask if Brookhaven’s temporary outdoor dining permit is a possible solution being considered for Atlanta’s restaurants. The mayor has yet to respond to Eater’s request for comment.


Stay home if sick. Check the Georgia Department of Public Health website for guidance and twice-daily updates on the latest number of reported COVID-19 cases.

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