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Salt Lake City Council amends regulation regarding patio seating at restaurants

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Even in the dead of winter, when customers are heading inside, the focus at the Avenues Bistro on Third is all on what is happening outside.

“The first thing I’m going to do is put a fence right here, a 6-foot fence,” Owner Kathie Chadbourne said.

The 28 seats she's now allowed to have will be contained to a space right outside her restaurant, a piece of property that she hasn’t been able to profit from, as of late.

“I’m so excited,” Chadbourne said. “We’re back in business. We have struggled for all of this time.”

The struggle started almost two years ago when complaints from neighbors about noise and overcrowding outside prompted the city to close her patio, citing a zoning violation.

“I completely understand,” explained Chadbourne. “I’m going to do everything I can to make this place fit in their world, too.”

After much debate before the Salt Lake City council, the council voted to adopt an amendment to their rule in September.

It actually impacts at least seven restaurants around the city that are considered to be “non-conforming” – that is, they don’t really match the zone where they are located. The regulation meant that none of them were even allowed to apply for outdoor dining, until now.

“If you live in a neighborhood, it ought to be a neighborhood with homes,” Councilman Kyle LaMalfa said.

He voted against the amendment, which passed 4-3.

“I love our city’s restaurants,” LaMalfa said. “But because you can live close to it, doesn’t mean we should have restaurants as our next door neighbor in all parts of our city.”

The amendment was constructed narrowly, and according to LaMalfa, grandfathered in the existing non-conforming restaurants. However, if a new restaurant was to open in a zone that prohibited outdoor seating, it could not apply for it in the future.

Chadbourne, however, believes she can be a good neighbor within the Avenues, indoors or out.

“I’m going to make sure I do everything for that level of balance,” she said.

She hopes to open her patio April 1.

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