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Outdoor dining gets a uniform look

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The landscape is changing on the city of Charleston's outdoor dining scene as are the number of venues.

The city recently tweaked its regulations so as to provide standardized fencing for all restaurants in the central business district that wished to offer food and beer outside on city property.

"It's just a cleaner look with all the fencing being uniform. The primary purpose was for a uniform design throughout the downtown," said Planning Director Dan Vriendt.

Adelphia and Bar 101/Ichiban were the first downtown establishments to take advantage of new city rules allowing fenced-in dining, initially passed in April 2012, then tweaked this past April. Both purchased their own fencing, but that has now been replaced in Adelphia's case with the city-designed fencing and will soon be changed out in the case of Bar101/Ichiban's brown plastic fencing.

The black metal fencing can now also be seen in front of Pies and Pints on Capitol Street, the Quarrier Diner on Quarrier Street and soon will be mounted on the Quarrier Street side of the Charleston Brewing Company.

The city provides the fencing but the application for outdoor dining with a fence includes a $500-per-year administrative fee. "That helps offset the city's costs of purchasing and storing the fencing, installing and taking it down at the beginning and ending of the outdoor dining season," said Vriendt.

Other reasons for the change to city-provided fencing were to make sure the fencing was stable, featured no "tripping hazards" and could be dismantled during colder months. 

"The fencing you are seeing put up now is temporary -- the city has it designed so it can be taken up after the outdoor dining season, put back in storage and brought back out in the spring," Vriendt said.

Charleston's outdoor dining season in these fenced-in spaces runs May 1 through Dec. 1. No fencing is required for outdoor dining if alcohol sales are not involved as in the case, for example, of the tables and chairs outside Taylor Books and Ellen's on Capitol Street.

The fencing also applies only to dining regulated on city-owned property and to restaurants -- bars are excluded -- in the central business district. That's an area roughly bounded by the Elk and Kanawha rivers, Leon Sullivan Way, and Smith and Washington streets -- and on streets with a speed limit of 25 miles an hour or less.

That leaves out Kanawha Boulevard, the East End, West Side and Kanawha City, although other areas could be added later. "If we get people asking about it, it's something we would definitely explore," said Vriendt.

The outdoor dining spaces have added to the downtown, he said. "We're very pleased with the response. We feel it's just been a great thing for the downtown and it's certainly added a lot to the environment or the ambience of the downtown."Reach Douglas Imbrogno at douglas@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.


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