Restaurants with temporary outdoor patios must get a permanent permit

The nationwide COVID emergency is over and local restaurants are having to adapt once again.
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 6:00 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The nationwide COVID emergency is over and local restaurants are having to adapt once again.

Many restaurants throughout Richmond created outdoor seating to adhere to the social distancing regulations during the pandemic. The city allowed restaurants to have outdoor seating take up some of the city sidewalks and parking lots through temporary outdoor patio permits.

This is now changing due to the emergency being declared over.

Restaurant owners were frightened when the news first broke. They all received an original email from the city stating the permits for their temporary outdoor patios would end in 24 hours.

Then, a follow-up email was sent to clarify that the permit would end, but owners can apply for a permanent permit without having to take down the current makeshift patio.

“We were a little frantic with that email, but now we’ve received another email and now we’re in a better place” said Katrina Giavos, the owner of Stella’s restaurant on Lafayette Street.

The temporary patios have been essential to keeping Richmond restaurants thriving and Lincoln Saunders, the city’s chief administrative officer, said those outdoor patios create a positive atmosphere and economic impact for the city.

“Having these additional sidewalk cafes and outdoor patios across the city has been a great asset to the residents, and to the businesses of the city, so we want to see them continue in it. We’re just having to phase from the COVID-19 type of authorization to a permanent city authorization,” said Saunders.

There is no deadline on when to have a permanent permit application submitted, as long as you’re keeping in contact with the city with efforts of getting a permanent permit.

“We’re going to work with restaurants to make it as simple and seamless as possible. We’re working with local restaurants to get them to transition from that temporary permit to a permanent authorization through either an encroachment or the city has a sidewalk café permit application that they can do that is an administrative process,” Saunders explained.

Giavos believes keeping the outdoor seating an option for the foreseeable future would better benefit the Richmond community.

“I think people are skeptical, and they’d rather stay safe, and so you’ll find a percentage of people who will only dine outside still,” she said.