How much space should be left on public walkways for pedestrians passing by?
This question led to an ordinance change for all outdoor dining in Naperville when council decided to allow sidewalk liquor sales to go on for another year.
Some were concerned clearance should be eight feet in order to allow people who use wheelchairs, walkers or strollers to pass.
“The goal should be to make the sidewalks usable for all people,” said Barbara Stark, a commissioner on Naperville’s Advisory Commission on Disabilities. “That means making the sidewalk space 8 feet to meet everyone’s ability level [and] meet the need of all sidewalks users.”
But restaurant owners say eight feet is impossible in most locations and unfair after they have been working with a five-foot minimum clearance since sidewalk liquor licenses were allowed on a trial basis last year.
“We invested in architects, plans, furniture and equipment to work with the space that we had which was based on a five-foot clearance. If you took even one foot away from that we would have to scrap the plans that we have. If you took three feet, it’s impossible,” explained Patrick Neary, CFO of the Bien Trucha Group, which owns Quiubo.
Mayor Steve Chirico cited the Americans with Disabilities Act guideline requiring five feet of clearance space, saying the proposal to provide six feet should be more than enough.
“At some point you reach diminished returns and you give up a lot of amenities,” Chirico said. “There has to be some reasonableness to that, the federal standard has to be a good place to start.”
Council also noted concerns that an upcoming streetscape plan for the city is unfinished and could affect the future of sidewalk dining.
Council voted unanimously to approve sidewalk liquor sales for the next 13 months and require a six-foot clearance for pedestrians at a minimum and eight feet where possible.
They also asked staff to come back with recommendations on a higher charge for restaurants above the current $500 yearly fee.
Outdoor dining on city sidewalks will also now be limited to April 1 to November 1.
Naperville News 17’s Beth Bria reports.