Zoning Administrator Advice – November 1, 2010
The Arlington County Zoning Ordinance (ACZO) does not define “outdoor café.” The following advice is provided as to how the term is generally defined and to provide my understanding of the consistent administrative practice in applying this term.
Only §31.A.11 speaks to an outdoor café and provides some regulation. In addition, some zoning districts permit restaurants “with outdoor cafés” (e.g. C-1). The following guidance is provided:
- Based upon the Zoning Ordinance requirements, outdoor cafés are seasonal in nature because they are not permitted to be enclosed and because no parking is required.
- As dictionary definitions make clear, an outdoor café is typified by tables and chairs. If alcohol is being served, it will also include a barrier of some kind, such as a short fence or rope/chain with periodic supports in order to also be compliant with ABC laws.
- Also, since outdoor cafes are neither enclosed nor permanent, food and beverage preparation would occur inside the building housing the principle use (i.e. a restaurant or grocery store) and brought to the customer or carried by the customer to the outdoor café.
- The seasonal nature of outdoor cafés, and the requirement of no enclosure suggest an impermanent facility; thus all fixtures associated with an outdoor café must be portable and related, as well as limited to, food service (e.g. tables, chairs, serving trays, soiled dish bins and the like). These requirements are also consistent with the fact that outdoor cafés can be permitted in the public right-of-way by use permit, and should not be permanent on county-owned property.
- An outdoor café is associated with a restaurant or a grocery store which also retails prepared food in a ready-to-consume state (e.g. deli sections like Whole Foods or Giant provides with ready-made sandwiches or meals) and no other use.
- Outdoor cafés are typically located immediately adjacent to the building housing the principle use, typically on the sidewalk or on a deck/porch (e.g. Liberty Tavern or Freddie’s Beach Bar & Bistro)
If outdoor dining is offered in a manner inconsistent with the above referenced bullets, the use is mostly likely not an outdoor café and must be treated in the same manner as the use to which it is associated. By way of example, if the use is enclosed in some manner or has permanent fixtures and is associated with a restaurant, then the seating must meet the parking requirements as established in §33 and setback requirements as established in §32.
In any event, any application for a Certificate of Occupancy or Building Permit for an outdoor café that is inconsistent with the bullets listed above must be reviewed by the Zoning Administrator or a Deputy Zoning Administrator prior to Zoning approval.
The foregoing statement is advice of the Zoning Administrator, only, and is subject to change and is not subject to appeal. It is provided solely for information and in an effort to assist the public. It may not be relied upon as legal advice or as creating any vested right to any use.