An ordinance being considered by the city of Dallas poses a threat to restaurants with that all-important feature: the patio. The ordinance, an amendment that originated with the city's Quality of Life committee, proposes that businesses with open or outside seating areas be required to have additional parking.
It has agitated restaurateurs, who say it will have a chilling effect on their business.
"This is big, bad stuff," says Buddy Cramer, who owns Katy Trail Ice House, one of the most patio-licious restaurants in Dallas. "It would have a major effect on restaurants with patios."
Currently, the city counts covered space only when calculating how much parking a place needs, and does not factor in patios. The amendment would put places like Katy Trail Ice House and the Truck Yard on Lower Greenville on the hook for a lot more parking.
"For a place like Katy Trail, it would force me to build a $2 million parking garage," Cramer says.
The amendment was first proposed by City Council member Mark Clayton, who discovered a loophole in current parking ordinances, in which outdoor establishments can get around the parking requirement.
"Last fall, there was a restaurant in my district that was trying to put in a Truck Yard type of business, and it only had 60 parking spaces," Clayton says. "That meant that patrons would end up parking in the neighborhood of Little Forest Hills. One of the 10 commandments is, Thou shall not park in the neighborhood. So I went to the city and asked how we can address this."
Clayton says he doesn't want to put a hindrance on businesses. "I was just looking for a way to close the loophole, to find a sensible solution, so that the city can hit a reset button that is in the best interest of the neighborhood and surrounding area," he says.
Restaurateurs have banded together in a "Save the Patio" initiative with more than 60 establishments signed on to the cause. There's a community meeting on November 29 at 6 pm, at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library.
They say that including patios as part of the overall seating doesn't make sense because patios are not always in use.
"If it rains or if it's wintertime, there's no one on the patio," Cramer says. "Katy Trail has been open since 2011, and we are never full on parking as it is. I'm probably one of the few that could do something like build a parking garage, but most places would just say, 'No more patio.'"