At its Monday, November 9, meeting, the Town Council unanimously approved a resolution to extend permits for outdoor dining in Verona through March 2021. The Council created the temporary zoning permits for sidewalk cafes and outdoor restaurant seating in June but they were only valid through the end of October.
Many Verona food businesses have created outdoor seating since the permits were issued, and the township also moved tables from the Verona Pool into the drive in front of Town Hall to provide additional outdoor seating.
Township Manager Matthew Cavallo said the decision to extend the permits was made after a review of current outdoor dining uses by Verona’s engineering, zoning, building, fire and economic development officials. Steve Neale, Verona’s director of administration and economic development, has had discussion with every business in Verona that would be affected.
But Cavallo said that Verona can’t give variances where there would be building code or fire safety issues that would preclude outdoor dining. “We just can’t unilaterally waive some of the requirements that some businesses might seem to feel are a constraint,” he said.
Under the special permits, all patrons must be seated to be served, and all on-premise alcohol service must be done by wait staff to people who are seated. Capacity for an outside dining area is limited to no more than the indoor capacity of the business and businesses must submit an outdoor dining layout for approval. The resolution also specified that there can be no music–live or recorded–in any outdoor dining area with a temporary permit unless the business had previously gotten approval for that from Verona’s Board of Adjustment or Zoning Board. There have been some complaints about late, loud music at outdoor dining venues since the temporary permits were granted.
Cavallo also said that town managers statewide are taking a second look at outdoor dining rules to perhaps make it a permanent feature even after the pandemic. “Everybody’s looking at their master plans and their zoning ordinances as to the future,” he said. “I think a lot of municipalities were under the impression that they didn’t want outdoor dining, they never wanted it. And people are seeing now that it’s not as detrimental as they thought it was.”