Restaurants Dish on New Outdoor Dining Regulations

Restaurant owners and managers discuss the borough's tightened outdoor dining regulations.

Editor's Note: The borough's amended outdoor dining regulations were not yet available in written form at the time this story was written. It's since been confirmed all existing restaurants will be grandfathered into this amendment, and will be unaffected by changes.

On Monday, June 20, Commissioners Joan Leonard and Mike Hall held a special meeting, during which amendments to the borough's outdoor dining regulations were approved. 

The official amended ordinance states that all restaurants offering outside dining must, "demonstrate that a minimum of 5 feet will be available for pedestrian traffic," around the outdoor area.

This amendment, according to the document, was created to promote pedestrian accessibility—allowing patrons to push strollers and wait staff to navigate tables easily—as well as to ensure pedestrian safety.

Also in the amended ordinance, any outdoor dining establishment must prepare and store all menu items only in the interior of the restaurant. This regulation applies to restaurants "directly in front of," commercial buildings and establishments. 

Regulations have also been defined to allow adequate access into any driveway surrounding an exterior dining area. The borough has designated that more than 50 feet should separate an outdoor cafe from any alley or driveway.

Jimmy Marino, owner of Bistro di , said this tightening up of outdoor dining regulations shouldn't significantly affect his restaurant.

Marino opened the Courtyard segment of his Haddon Avenue restaurant, Bistro di Marino—a 3,000-square-foot outside dining space—two months ago. 

"I went in front of (Collingswood's) planning board last spring to get approved for our courtyard," said Marino. "So we are already adhering to the regulations being enforced."

While Marino said he hadn't been notified about the ordinance's new, stricter version of these regulations, his courtyard is in compliance with the borough's demands.

"We have 12 tables out back, and there's more than enough space between each," he said. "And I feel like these regulations have more to do with (outdoor dining areas situated) on the sidewalk. Ours is a completely private, exterior seating area that is behind the restaurant. We don't have tables on the sidewalk."

Angelo Lutz, chef and owner of The Kitchen Consigliere, offers outside seating on the sidewalk perpendicular to Powell Avenue, which runs along the LumberYard Condominiums complex.

"I understand that this issue can potentially be a public hazard on the main street (Haddon Avenue), but my dining is not affected by cars and driveways like other restaurants on Haddon are," said Lutz.

Lutz's outside seating space is even sectioned off by a concrete wall, and vehicle traffic on Powell Avenue is less heavy than on Haddon Avenue.

"So for the public, looking out for their safety and their common welfare on the main drag, I can understand (this ordinance amendment) completely," said Lutz. 

Ryan Tirpack, manager of , an Italian restaurant with outdoor seating located directly on the "main drag" of Haddon Avenue, said the ordinance is a positive push.

Nunzio's offers two cafe tables directly on Haddon Avenue, less than a block away from Collings Avenue—the busiest intersection in downtown Collingswood.

"It's important for all of our customers, and for pedestrians, to be safe," said Tirpack of the ordinance. "So it's a good thing that restrictions are being placed. We want our customers to come back, bottom line, so we've always been sure to provide a safe dining environment."

All former provisions under the borough's outdoor dining code will remain, and commissioners will hold a public hearing on the ordinance amendment during their July 11 meeting.


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