COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A plan to allow outdoor dining on parking lanes in Columbus could be announced as early as Monday, something local restaurant owners have been asking from the city for months.

David Miller, president of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, said his goal is to have employees waiting tables in front of The Pearl and Marcellas in the Short North by next weekend.

“The seats will actually be on the street,” Miller said. “We need to keep the sidewalks clear so that the restaurants and retailers have no obstruction to their doorways and we can still socially distance and the tables outside obviously have to be socially distanced.”

While other cities moved forward with expanded outdoor dining earlier this summer, Columbus has been reluctant citing concern that it might increase the COVID-19 infection rate.

But restaurant owners claim they can do this safely.

Tom Dailey, owner of Zoup, said restaurants will follow the same rules they use for indoor dining.

“And we’re not asking for a permanent change to zoning or permit regulations,” Dailey said. “We’re just asking for a little bit of relief for the remainder of the summer to help some restaurants that are struggling and hanging on by their fingernails.”

The plan would also allow for expanded outdoor dining if a restaurant has an adjacent parking lot.

The permits would run through Oct. 31 when weather will likely make outdoor dining less feasible.

Miller said for many restaurants, it will mean adding four to six tables. That may not sound like a lot, but it could add 20 percent or more to a restaurant’s capacity.

“Having some of these extra additional seats right now may help some of these restaurants weather through the winter,” Miller said. 

The city plan is expected to propose a fast-track approval process for the outdoor dining permits. 

The parking lane dining would be allowed only where there’s metered parking spaces and the speed limit is 30 mph or less. Construction-style barriers would be used to separate the dining tables from street traffic.

Dailey remains cautiously optimistic.

“I hope that it’s not too little, too late,” Dailey said. “Summer is starting to wane now.  I hope that it will not be mired in bureaucracy that takes a long time to get this thing up and running. So I think there is reason to hope if the city is truly committed to following through and actually allowing a significant number of outdoor dining venues, especially downtown.”

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