PITTSBURG, Kan. — Local restaurants now have the option, for a small fee, to serve customers at outdoor dining areas on public sidewalks in front of their establishments, following approval of a new ordinance by the Pittsburg City Commission this week.

“One of the hardest hit areas of the economy through this pandemic have been the restaurants and hospitality services,” said Deputy City Manager Jay Byers.

“We’re looking for different options for how to help these people out. A lot of them are still maintaining six foot distances in their restaurants. That essentially halves the capacity for those restaurants, and we’re looking at ways to maybe give them some more seating capacity. One of the ways we could do that is through making some more public space available to them.”

In response to a question from Commissioner Chuck Munsell, Byers said no streets or sidewalks would have to be closed to regular vehicle or foot traffic to allow restaurants to provide sidewalk dining areas. Americans with Disabilities Act regulations require that there be at least three feet of space on any sidewalk to allow people through.

Byers said that some restaurants on side streets where the sidewalks might be too narrow might not be able to take advantage of the new ordinance, but most of those on Broadway should be able to benefit from it.

In response to a question from Commissioner Larry Fields, Byers said some restaurants had already expressed interest in providing dining options on the sidewalks in front of their establishments.

Asked by Commissioner Cheryl Brooks why the city was requiring restaurants to pay a $50 fee to be able to serve customers in sidewalk dining areas if it was only planned as a temporary option, Byers and other officials said it would cover the cost of city staff time spent reviewing restaurants’ plans and other paperwork they would have to present for how they would set up sidewalk dining areas.

“The way the ordinance is currently drafted is that the director of public works will actually approve each individual plan in conjunction with the fire chief,” City Attorney Henry Menghini said, “and there will actually be a license agreement entered into with any restaurants that want to do this.”

Menghini also noted that in other cities such as Lawrence and Kansas City there were already sidewalk dining ordinances in place prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and Pittsburg could potentially keep its own ordinance in place beyond the end of the COVID-19 crisis.