The Arlington County Board is considering an amendment to its zoning ordinance to allow outdoor cafes on private property to stay open year-round. The county was previously enforcing an uncodified interpretation of the ordinance that requires all outdoor cafes to be seasonal in nature — typically only open from April to November.
Sidewalk cafes located on public property will still be regulated under the seasonality requirement, but will only be required to close for three months of the year.
The amendment proposal comes just over a year after the Westover Beer Garden, which is on private property, defied the county’s seasonality requirement, calling it an “imaginary rule.”
The zoning amendment provides other policy tweaks and clarifications for outdoor cafes on private property. Among them:
- Use of televisions, radios and other electronic media will be permitted at outdoor cafes from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. The outdoor use of electronic media will still be regulated by the county’s noise ordinance.
- Outdoor cafes “in side or rear yards adjacent to or across an alley from an ‘R’ or ‘RA’ [residential] District” must be closed between 11:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m.
- Outdoor cafes must have fewer seats than the main restaurant, and cannot be used when the main restaurant is closed.
- All outdoor fixtures must be removable.
- Only restaurants may have outdoor cafes
The amendment also carries a new legal definition for outdoor cafes. It’s described as “An area that contains portable seating and tables, intended solely for the consumption of food and beverages that are also included in the standard menu of the restaurant, outside the exterior walls of a restaurant (excluding rooftops).”
The Board is scheduled to vote on the measure on Saturday.