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Arlington Approves Temporary Outdoor Dining Measure on Emergency Basis

by Nena Perry-Brown

A parklet in Arlington.

Arlington County is moving forward with a process to approve temporary outdoor dining areas on an emergency basis.

On Tuesday afternoon, the County Board unanimously approved a motion that would allow restaurants to seek Temporary Outdoor Seating Areas (TOSA), including extending existing outdoor areas into the public right-of-way.

Virginia has already authorized outdoor-only "dine-in" services for its Phase One "reopening", requiring each application to the Alcohol Beverage Control Authority (ABC) be approved on the jurisdictional level first. ABC has created a fast-track for outdoor dining applications or expansions; the statewide TOSA option is in place until the expiration of the executive orders dictating Phase One "reopening" and Northern Virginia's delay of Phase One.

Rather than needing County Board approval for outdoor dining in public space, as is typical, the TOSA process will allow Arlington County staff to sign off on applications. The County also plans to put together a map of restaurants with TOSAs. 

The TOSAs can replace surface parking, use sidewalk space, or can be parklet-style occupation of street parking lanes, although for the latter, use of parking spaces cannot conflict with pick-up/drop-off (PUDO) zones. TOSA applications seeking to use parking spaces will also be prioritized if neighbors have already been consulted.

Parking space TOSAs would require physical barriers to be installed, although any TOSA furnishings must be easily removable, and any TOSAs cannot conflict with pedestrian walkability or ADA concerns. New rooftop dining areas would not count as a TOSA, and existing rooftop dining would already be permissible via state law.

Although Virginia's guidance allows outdoor dining areas to accommodate up to 50% of restaurant capacity, Arlington County cautioned that this may not be feasible. Any TOSA application would require a diagram on how the TOSA would be arranged and the size and spacing of the configuration to ensure adherence to distancing requirements. Dining parties also must be no more than 10 people.

Northern Virginia is expected to begin the first "reopening" phase on Friday, and the TOSA website with application portal is scheduled to go live tomorrow. The County Board would hold a full public hearing and final vote on the measure next month. DC delayed consideration of a similar temporary outdoor dining measure last week.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/arlington-approves-temporary-outdoor-dining-measure-on-emergency-basis/16883

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