Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Beach’s ViBe District seeks relaxed rules for outdoor seating

VIRGINIA BEACH – An effort is underway to loosen resort area rules to make it easier for business owners in the ViBe Creative District to provide outdoor seating.

A new committee headed by Resort Advisory Commissioner William Almond will review the regulations on outdoor tables and chairs with the aim of creating separate, laxer guidelines for ViBe businesses. Almond said he had the idea to relax the rules earlier this year when Kevin Jamison, the owner of Commune, requested permission to place six two-person metal tables and chairs outside his restaurant at Baltic Avenue and Virginia Beach Boulevard.

“We ended up scrambling to find a way to have something as simple as that happen,” Almond said.

With his request for outdoor seating, Jamison provided a site plan and photos of the chairs and tables he would use. He also built a fence to separate his customers from passersby.

The resort area’s regulations for outdoor seating were created in 2012 and were mainly intended to prevent issues with large crowds and pedestrians at restaurants on the boardwalk, Almond said. The idea was to keep crowds from loitering with alcohol, and to keep patrons from handing off drinks to friends or other people, Resort Administrator Mike Eason said.

The regulations include uniform style guidelines for tables, chairs and accessories, and requirements to serve food on glassware instead of disposable dishware, and to provide waitstaff to the outside dining area.

Jamison said there is a need for different rules for the ViBe District, where people are supposed to be creative, and freedom and variety are crucial.

“The arts district – if it were to be an arts district – can’t be homogeneous,” he said. “If we want to put out a couple of tables, it should be something that’s allowed and encouraged.”

Kristine Gay, a planner with the City’s Strategic Growth Area Department, worked with Jamison when he requested his tables.

“ViBe District is really different from the Oceanfront, and they (ViBe) do smaller-scale, less intense operations,” Gay said. “Whereas on Atlantic and on the boardwalk, the sidewalk is inundated with pedestrians and skateboarders and all that stuff during summer.”

Jamison said the ability to seat a dozen more customers is a big deal for Commune and boosts the restaurant’s overall revenue.

“It expands the amount of people we can seat in the restaurant,” he said. “Especially for a small business like us, it’s a very big deal. If the city wants to get more tax revenue from restaurants like us – which, we generate quite a bit – then making small business like us able to generate more income seems like a no-brainer. The more people we can seat, the more meal tax they drive in.”

Almond said he intends to come up with alternative, less strict guidelines soon, so they can be in effect by next spring. One of the goals is to allow outdoor seating without requiring waitstaff service for those tables, if the business doesn’t wish to do so.

The committee’s recommendations will be presented to the City Council for approval.

“It will take a little bit, but I want to get it done hopefully by the end of the year,” Almond said.

Have a story idea or news tip? Contact Business reporter Hillary Smith  at Hillary@wydaily.com or 757-490-2750.

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