With construction wrapping up, businesses along the College Avenue promenade will soon have the option to expand to add outdoor, open aired seating to the sidewalk— something Blacksburg currently doesn’t have a lot of.
Ann McClung, director of planning and development for the Town of Blacksburg said that almost every restaurant on College Avenue has expressed interest in applying for the outdoor vendors license.
“We had several round table discussions where restauranteurs came and were really excited about it. It’s been a very positive experience,” McClung said.
Generally, restaurants are permitted to have as much outdoor seating as they’d like on their own private property. However, the College Avenue sidewalk is considered public right of way, therefore restaurants must apply to use the space and are required to pay an annual franchise fee.
No fees will be required for patrons in 2013, but starting in 2014, the restaurants using the public space will be required to pay a one-time $100 processing fee, on top of $3 per square foot. After the first year, a renewal fee of $50 will be required.
According to the open air dining regulations set by the Town of Blacksburg, patrons in the new open air dining will be allowed to consume alcoholic beverages as long as they are in compliance with the ABC regulations. Smoking, however, will not be permitted in the public outdoor areas.
Other regulations include no music broadcasted, and if alcohol is served, a fence must enclose the area from the public walkway per ABC regulations. Furniture for the outdoor dining will be have to be provided by the individual restaurant and will not be provided by the town.
Service will be allowed until midnight, which is an extension from what was initially considered.
“That was definitely a bonus from town council that they didn’t expect,” said Laureen Blakemore of Downtown Blacksburg Incorporated.
However, restaurants that hope to serve alcoholic beverages will have a separate process to go through in applying for an off-premise ABC license. Since the seating is separate from the connecting restaurant exterior, an off-premise license will be required.
Also adding to the headache, restaurants will have to apply for a liquor license — even if they don’t want to serve liquor.
Gillie’s owners said that though they’ll have a liquor license, they will still continue to only serve beer and wine.
“We don’t have any other option,” said owner Renee Gillie.
Staff at Souvlaki’s also expressed that they would go through the process of reapplying, despite the extra $1,000 it’ll cost.
This dilemma is a result of the design of the promenade, which allows pedestrians to walk between the restaurant façade and the outdoor seating area.
McClung says that current design of the promenade was the only option.
“If you try and to the dining against the building, you don’t get any area," she said. "You start to block the entrance to other businesses and residences when you do that.”
Downtown Blacksburg Inc. and the Town of Blacksburg will have a grand opening celebration on August 16 that will include a parade, music, and special discounts offered at certain downtown locations.
“We’re excited and it's going to be a huge benefit to have more dining options outside, and will really make College Avenue a more vibrant place in the evening and the day,” Blakemore said.