The Honolulu City Council on Wednesday unanimously passed a measure to allow outdoor dining on sidewalks and other public spaces.

The final version of Bill 27, introduced by Chair Tommy Waters, proposes a two-year pilot program to extend restaurant dining on Oahu to sidewalks, parklets, pedestrian malls, parks and playgrounds. If the program is successful, outdoor dining would become permanent.

The city had temporarily permitted sidewalk dining to help restaurants struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic, but that ended in March.

Fete restaurant diners enjoying outside seating along Hotel Street.
Bill 27 creates a pilot program that allows restaurants to extend dining outdoors in certain public spaces. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Outdoor dining has helped Oahu’s eateries, especially in drawing customers uncomfortable eating indoors, according to Ave Kwok, vice chair of the Hawaii Restaurant Association.

Kwok said that the measure would help restaurants financially, especially some bar/restaurants that don’t already have outdoor seating.

“It was a challenge,” Kwok said. “A lot of diners would rather dine outside because it’s safer.”

The bill awaits approval from Mayor Rick Blangiardi, who made clear that he supports it.

“I offer a sincere mahalo to the members of the Honolulu City Council for unanimously passing this measure knowing full well we needed a collaborative effort necessary in a post-pandemic economic recovery,” Blangiardi said in a written statement. “The City and County of Honolulu is like nowhere else on the planet and outdoor dining, through Bill 27, will help showcase the charm of this very special place. And this bill will be good for both restaurants and patrons alike. Everybody wins!”

The program would begin in six months. The mayor will decide which city department will oversee the pilot program.

Restaurants would have to comply with a number of conditions to operate outdoors on sidewalks, malls and parks.

“We’re still in economic recovery mode, and we need to look at every possible avenue for small businesses to thrive, including our restaurants,” Vice Chair Esther Kiaaina said in an interview. “But of course, they need to fit the parameters.”

Under the legislation, restaurants that extend their dining to public sidewalks must clear furniture between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Restaurants selling alcohol must seek approval by the Honolulu Liquor Commission.

Restaurants must also keep up with all Covid requirements under emergency orders, including social distancing. Outdoor furniture must be located at least six feet away from vehicular ramps, driveways or intersections.

The program also requires fire lanes to be clear at all times. Outdoor furniture must be placed five feet away from fire hydrants and eight feet away from bus stops.

In malls, restaurants cannot allow outdoor dining outside of mall hours or serve alcohol and must clean up trash.

Mall restaurants also must maintain a clear 20-foot-wide right-of-way to “accommodate delivery and emergency vehicles.”

Restaurants abutting city parks or playgrounds are allowed no more than one row of tables “limited to a maximum of seven feet from the property line.”

Restaurants will have to pay $50 to apply for a permit. They must be located on the ground floor and abut paved city property, said Jon Nouchi, director of the city Department of Transportation Services.

According to the bill, the city department responsible for the program will have to submit a report to the council recommending whether the program should become permanent.

“I think it’s an excellent program, and it hasn’t been contentious because everybody agrees that it’s a good idea,” Kiaaina said.

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