A Pittsburgh commission voted Wednesday to standardize outdoor dining options in the city and streamline the process of getting city approval for outdoor dining areas.
Restaurants need to apply for permits to use sidewalks and streets for outdoor operations.
Pittsburgh’s Public Art & Civic Design Commission approved a measure to set standards for the design of the outdoor dining areas.
Officials said the standards would streamline the process for businesses because ones who meet the standards approved this week will be able to bypass a review by the art commission. The city’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure will review applications to ensure they meet the city’s standards.
“We wanted to make the process easier, more accessible for a business,” said Josette Fitzgibbons, manager of business district services for the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority.
The standardized outdoor dining installations approved Wednesday include requiring businesses to install a barrier that separates diners from moving traffic.
There are three design concepts allowed in the new standards. One is simply set up on the pavement, another includes a platform with a railing and the third includes a canopy platform with a roof. Acceptable add-ons include umbrellas, alternative railings, lighting and resin planting boxes.
The standards also require exposed wood to be painted or stained and jersey barriers to be painted.
Columbus, Ohio-based Toole Design Group worked with the URA to come up with the standards.
“Most of our restaurants we work with at the URA are still in recovery from the covid pandemic,” Fitzgibbons said. “Even though we feel like we’re a year or two out of it, they’re still recouping the costs, getting over being closed for so long. This is a way we can help our businesses to be able to expand their seating.”
The designs, she said, are meant to be simple and affordable to ensure it’s not prohibitive for local businesses.
The Department of Mobility & Infrastructure is tasked with ensuring outdoor dining spaces are accessible, leave a clear path along public rights-of-way and don’t block critical infrastructure such as bus stops and fire hydrants.
“The pre-approved standards will allow for a faster, smoother permitting process for both DOMI and for the business community,” Georgia Petropoulos, CEO of the Oakland Business Improvement District, wrote in a letter to the commission. “The standards will benefit businesses located on various commercial corridors all throughout the Central Oakland business district as well as throughout the city.”
Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, said outdoor dining offerings “have become important centerpieces for a unique and memorable Downtown experience.”
“The PDP welcomes these outdoor dining design concepts as pre-approved options that would have an expedited permitting process,” he said. “Being more affordable and temporary than other design options, these outdoor dining concepts are very worthy of expedited permitting and will be greatly appreciated by restaurants who seek to establish outdoor dining in front of their locations.”
Julia Felton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Julia by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .