It has been a challenging year for restaurants and small businesses everywhere as we all work to promote public health and slow the spread of COVID-19. Current government mandates that limit occupancy within establishments may have you considering your options for offering more seating outdoors. With colder weather arriving, that likely also means options that keep patrons comfortable and warm, as well.
It is important to note that you cannot install or make changes to your restaurant’s seating without having those changes approved by the City of Winston-Salem.
The City will work with restaurant owners to review their ideas and to help them ensure that their plans meet code requirements. The City has suggested that restaurant owners interested in purchasing tents or pods, or making any other adjustments to outdoor dining, should review their plans with the Planning department first. City staff can also review what types of materials you are planning to purchase to make sure they’re allowed. Pods, tents, and structures have materials requirements to ensure they are fire-safe and accessible.
You should review your individual plans with a City planning staff member. For general ideas and an overview of the requirements you should consider, you may access the powerpoint slides or review the conference call recording.
This conference call covered some of the most frequently asked questions received by the Planning department.
How do structures/enclosures like igloos/bubbles impact indoor occupancy numbers?
They do not affect total occupancy numbers. For example, if your “Occupant Load” was 100, but the governor’s order allows 50% of that you could have 50 people. If the order also stated that you could only have 20 people inside at any time then you could use approved outdoor dining to handle whatever portion of that remaining 30 people your approved outdoor dining allowed.
If igloos/bubbles are considered to be density units, how many units per square foot are businesses allowed to have?
Tents or pods must have 44 inches of walking space between each unit with at least 5 percent of the units designed to be accessible with five feet of turnaround in front of the door and a 36 inch or wider door.
Are there any setback requirements for outdoor enclosures/structures?
Tents cannot block entrance or egress paths from buildings. Placing them on City sidewalks/streets would require approval from the City. They also have to meet specific flame spread requirements or be 10 feet from a property line.
Does the number of outdoor igloos/bubbles impact outdoor parking capacity? Can bubbles/igloos be placed in parking areas?
City staff are willing to offer flexibility with respect to parking requirements impacted by the placement of temporary igloos/bubbles. You should balance your requirements for parking with your capacity for outdoor dining.
Can igloos/bubbles be placed on sidewalks or in rear parking spaces?
For placement on City sidewalks, permission would need to be obtained and adequate sidewalk width (4-5’) for pedestrians would need to be maintained. Please use caution in placing igloos/bubbles in parking areas so as not to potentially place folks in vehicular paths of travel or maneuvering areas.
Are there specific materials that need to be used to construct overhead outdoor space?
Yes, there are both size and materials restrictions. City staff will be prepared to offer some vendors who specialize in code compliant products, and will work with you to find ways the code works for you, or in some cases may exempt you from some permitting requirements.
Do we need to provide additional restrooms to accommodate increased outdoor seating?
As long as the total issued “Occupant Load” is not exceeded and all patrons have access (regular and handicapped) to the originally provided number of restrooms, no additional capacity is needed. Information discussed applies to current executive orders for the state of North Carolina and may be subject to change.