Just a little more than six months after Bangor City Council voted to change the process for issuing outdoor seating licenses, downtown Bangor is bustling with alfresco diners. And while city officials say the process has gone smoothly, more changes are expected as they work out kinks and more restaurants apply for outdoor dining licenses.
Among those kinks is a deadline that was set for three downtown restaurants to comply with fencing regulations. Umami and Paddy Murphy’s failed to paint their wooden fencing black by the July 1 deadline, though Umami started the job by that date. The New Waverly’s fence was painted June 29.
Tanya Emery, Bangor’s director of economic development and a member of the design review committee that oversees the licenses, said the city would talk with the businesses and ask them to comply. However, there isn’t yet a procedure in place for when they don’t.
“We certainly know there are two not in compliance,” Emery said July 1. “We’ll check in with them, see why they’re not done. If we need to go further, we’ll go from there.”
In December, Bangor city councilors approved a set of Sidewalk Licensing Agreement standard s, which hadn’t been revised since the early 1990s. The new standards allowed year-round outdoor dining on city sidewalks and squares and allowed restaurants and bars in West Market Square to set up outdoor dining spaces that extended no more than 19 feet into the square.
The change also established a design review committee made up of city staff and a representative from the Downtown Bangor Partnership. The committee’s role includes regulating fencing, furniture and design of the outdoor dining spaces.
According to documents obtained by the Bangor Daily News, the committee has met formally twice since April, and 11 outdoor seating permits have been issued. Applicants must submit a design proposal, which includes information about tables, fencing and any work that must be done to the sidewalks to accommodate the seating.
Bangor’s code enforcement officer regulates Bangor’s miles of sidewalks. While he’s open to involving the city council in discussions, particularly about aesthetics, Code Enforcement Officer Jeremy Martin said it ultimately is up to his department what outdoor seating in Bangor looks like. And that means making sure there’s some uniformity to the mandatory fences, clearance for pedestrians and wheelchairs and a staff person at each location to oversee the outdoor diners.
But not every sidewalk is created equal, and some restaurants are out of luck because they don’t have the mandatory 5 feet of clearance.
Harvest Moon on Columbia Street, for example, cannot have outdoor seating because the sidewalk is too narrow. Umami on Main Street, on the other hand, has enough space for a handful of tables, but they had to be configured to allow for the passage of a wheelchair.
Martin said he hasn’t received any formal complaints about the licensing process, but he checks in with the businesses every so often and makes sure the areas are clean and orderly.
“So far, no concerns,” he said. “And when it comes up, we’ll deal with it. It is our property.”
Fencing is required by law for any business serving alcohol outdoors. The city’s fire and police departments must approve the applications and check for things such as fence height and emergency access.
Martin said he plans on observing Bangor’s outdoor dining scene throughout the summer and would make suggestions based on any problems or concerns that arise. But overall, he said it’s a good change for Bangor and one that most likely will continue growing as the city welcomes new restaurants, such as Evenrood’s on Broad Street, which opened last week.
“It certainly makes for a more vibrant, livable city,” he said.