DUNWOODY, Ga. — To help local restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dunwoody will now offer a permit that allows temporary outdoor dining space.
The Dunwoody City Council passed the resolution unanimously at its May 11 meeting and also agreed to waive the normal permitting fee.
In late April, Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order that permitted restaurants to reopen dining rooms so long as they follow certain safety procedures, such as maintaining 6 feet of separation between tables and limiting parties to no more than six people.
“Most restaurants are only able to accommodate about 30 percent of their existing capacity while also meeting the new physical distance requirements,” Dunwoody Economic Development Director Michael Starling said. “Many restaurants will never be able to open [dine-in service] even if they’re doing curbside and delivery.”
Dunwoody restaurants will now be able to apply for a special operations permit that allows them to open seating in outdoor public spaces and parking lots. Shopping centers with multiple restaurants can open a shared, food-court-style eating area.
“We are not unique in offering this,” Starling said. “Every city I have talked to is looking at something. Most of them, like us, are using a variation of their special event permit.”
The temporary spaces must not exceed the original occupancy limits of the restaurant’s interior and cannot block fire lanes or sidewalks. These restaurants also must continue to meet the governor’s guidelines.
“I am thrilled that we will be able to offer our restaurants this option,” Mayor Lynn Deutsch said.
In other business at the May 11 meeting, the council discussed rewriting its ordinances to allow bicyclists to ride on sidewalks. Councilman Joe Seconder added the discussion item to the agenda.
Georgia law only allows bicycles to travel on sidewalks if the rider is 12 years old or younger. However, city ordinances can supersede the state law if cities choose to allow older bicyclist, City Attorney Bill Riley explained.
Dunwoody does not have such an ordinance, although several council members admitted the city’s current rules are confusing. The city code includes guidelines for bicycle use on sidewalks, including a provision that bikers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and must give an audible signal before passing a pedestrian.
Two residents spoke during public comment urging the council to allow bikes on sidewalks, saying that riding on the road, even one with painted bike lanes, is dangerous and intimidating to all but the most experienced bicyclists.
Council members Jim Riticher and Pam Tallmadge said they supported allowing bikes on sidewalks.
“We need to get there any way we can,” Riticher said. “I think that should be an option, with pedestrians of course having right-of-way.”
Council members Tom Lambert and John Heneghan indicated they were open to the change but raised some concerns as well.
“There are pros and cons to both sides of this,” Lambert said. “Obviously, there are pros in situations with families riding on the sidewalk with younger children. Also, some of our aging population might not feel safe riding on our roads.”
However, Lambert said, some bicyclists would not follow the guidelines and could put pedestrians at risk. Cars pulling out of driveways also might not be looking out for bikes and would have less time to react to avoid a collision.
The council agreed to let staff draft a new ordinance and will discuss the matter at future meetings.