New outdoor dining and seating options may be heading to downtown Wichita Falls. City Councilors approved a new ordinance Tuesday to set the standard for downtown curb appeal.
It's just another step in the on-going efforts to revitalize the downtown core. The new opportunity is not only a way to draw people in, but also an opportunity for business owners to maximize the use of their property.
It's something that local restaurants and cafes are already looking forward to.
"We don't have a lot of outdoor stuff," said Daniel Stevenson, employee at the 8th Street Coffee House. "We just got our little billboard, but when they see the seating and see the inviting atmosphere I think that will catch a lot of people."
The 8th Street Coffee House is just one of a number of small restaurants that set up shop in Downtown Wichita Falls. They are also one of a number of places who have considered outdoor dining space.
With the approval of a new city ordinance the cafe will soon have the opportunity to expand its booming business onto the public right-of-way.
"We have a very nice ambiance inside that we would like to transfer outside, so hopefully that'll do it," said Stevenson.
Right now only a few chairs and small tables sit outside the cafe doors. However, the new ordinance would allow the space to expand if a site plan was approved by the city. The second step is the process is to pay a one-time fee of $250 for an encroachment agreement with the city.
"Well we've always been stuck with kind of minimal outdoor seating," said Stevenson. "But with the new ordinance we're hoping to invest a little more."
The ordinance allows the business to use whatever space is available, with the regulation of leaving five feet of sidewalk for the general public. It also requires businesses to fence in their dining area, as well as line up canopies, umbrellas or awnings to meet the measurements of fencing. The numerous guidelines will be strictly enforced by the city leaders. They said they have no problem working with local business owners.
"We've always been worried about being in the way," said Stevenson.
The outdoor dining and seating would still be required to follow the city's smoking ordinance. As a reminder you have to be 20 feet away from a door to light up. If that dining area stretched passed 20 ft. patrons would be allowed to smoke, according to city officials.
The new ordinance goes into effect September 3, 2015. City officials said any violation of the ordinance can result in a $500 fine.
Click for all regulations for the new ordinance: Full List