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Extension of Eased Outdoor Dining Rules in Connecticut Wins Unanimous Support in Legislature

  • Expanded outdoor dining will be permitted through March 31, 2022
  • Eased rules allow restaurants to set up dining areas on sidewalks, in parking lots, and in open spaces
  • Governor Ned Lamont urges legislature to consider making relaxed restrictions more permanent

By Dirk Langeveld

Restaurants can continue seating customers on sidewalks and in parking lots after the Connecticut legislature has unanimously approved a measure easing rules on outdoor dining.

The Connecticut Senate approved the measure on Tuesday, six days after it was approved in the House. The bill keeps the relaxed rules in effect through March 31, 2022, and also allows municipalities to expedite permanent changes in zoning rules if they wish to keep the eased requirements in place.

After Connecticut businesses began reopening following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, restaurants often found themselves limited by indoor dining capacity limits. Many found ways to create or expand outdoor dining areas to safely accommodate more customers.

The bill permits outdoor dining as an accessory to a restaurant’s permitted use, including the ability to set up tables on sidewalks, in parking lots, and in yards or other open spaces. Restaurants must continue to meet certain requirements, such as providing enough space for pedestrians to pass on a sidewalk. However, they are also exempt from some other rules, such as municipal zoning rules for minimum off-street parking.

Any restaurants that previously were approved for a permit for expanded outdoor dining can continue offering it. New restaurants or establishments introducing expanded outdoor dining this year have been promised an expedited, fee-free application process.

Governor Ned Lamont previously praised the House passage of the bill and suggested that the legislature revisit the concept in the near future to help make expanded outdoor dining arrangements more permanent. He has separately introduced a bill, now before the Planning & Development Committee, to streamline the process for municipalities to permit outdoor dining.

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