Leesburg Council: Sidewalk Dining Options Too Narrow?

Patrons of the Leesburg dining scene could soon find themselves with more options.

The Leesburg Town Council this week spoke about two processes to explore the expanded use of food service at convenience stations, as well as outdoor dining along the downtown area’s busy streets.

The latter of the proposed changes comes on the heels of the widening of a sidewalk on one downtown block of King Street.

Town leaders have researched what other Virginia localities have done to allow for outdoor dining on sidewalks and alcoholic beverages to be served on public rights of way. A permitting process, review of submitted applications and ensuring compliance with the Health Department and Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control are among a few of the rules to which restaurant owners would need to adhere, Town Attorney Barbara Notar told council members during their Monday work session.

Any outdoor seating would still need to allow for four feet of pedestrian access from the sidewalk curb, she noted.

It was this last point that raised the ire of some council members when presented with a photograph showing what little space could be available for outdoor dining in some locations, when the four-foot rule was applied.

“I don’t think restaurants are expecting little ice cream tables,” for outdoor seating, Vice Mayor Kelly Burk said. “It’s got to be worth their while.”

Mayor Kristen Umstattd, who had been vocal about her opposition to the downtown improvements capital project in the past, said she would “resist the urge to say ‘I told you so’” given that Monday marked her final council work session as mayor, before taking her seat as the next Leesburg District supervisor in January.

“You’re not going to be able to accommodate the moms with their strollers and two people walking side by side if you have anything other than small, two-person café tables,” Umstattd said. “But that’s the choice the council will have to make.”

The second proposed change stems from an idea put forward by Councilman Tom Dunn in November, to expand on-premises food service at convenience stations. Dunn noted that many national service station franchises—Sheetz and Wawa among them—have added options for seating for use by their customers for the consumption of quick service food. In a staff report, Zoning Administrator Chris Murphy noted that the definitions ascribed to “convenience food store” and “service station” would not allow those types of uses within town.

The council ultimately voted Tuesday to initiate the changes to the Town Code. Dunn was the lone dissenting vote, saying he was opposed to alcoholic beverages being served on the public right of way.

Tuesday night, the council also voted to initiate the process on an item proposed by Councilman Marty Martinez the previous night. Martinez had said he would like to see allowing the service of alcoholic beverages expanded to other town facilities.    Currently, alcoholic beverages—beer and wine only—are allowed to be served and consumed at Ida Lee Park Recreation Center, the building at Olde Izaak Walton Park and the Ida Lee Tennis Center when the facilities are rented by outside groups. The resolution passed 6-1 Tuesday night, with Dunn again dissenting, would allow the council to consider expanding this allowance to other town facilities and possibly permitting other types of liquor to be served in addition to beer and wine.

Martinez said he brought forward the initiative because he feels that the town has “lost opportunities” to host several events at its facilities because more facilities and types of liquor are not included in the current Town Code regulations.

Contact Kara Clark Rodriguez at krodriguez@loudounnow.com.

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