Tomorrow afternoon, the City Council will take up controversial changes to its Private Use of Public Spaces ordinance—in other words, the degree to which bars and restaurants are permitted to use the sidewalks in front of their buildings as patios. (While the ordinance is most definitely aimed at Fayetteville Street, the new regulations will be citywide.)
As we’ve reported earlier
, this issue first popped up at the end of May
, about a month after the Fayetteville Street District’s Livable Streets Subcommittee passed a resolution in support of shutting down sidewalk patios and 11 p.m. on prohibiting establishments that don’t serve a substantial amount of food from using them. Even though the city staff’s first proposal largely mirrored that of the subcommittee—co-chaired by Raleigh Times owner Greg Hatem—a source familiar with the subcommittee told the INDY
over the weekend that, contrary to my implication last week
, they had nothing to do with pushing for the legislative changes, and that, to the source’s knowledge, city staff had modeled its legislation after that of Austin. (It is true that the initial proposal mirrored Austin’s ordinance.)
Anyway, there was a backlash, and the ordinance has changed a lot since then. The proposal before City Council now is a midnight cutoff on Sunday through Thursday, then a 1 a.m. cutoff on weekend nights. More important, perhaps, are restrictions to sidewalk occupancy loads—e.g., how many people bars can cram onto their sidewalks at one time. For some bars, what the city is proposing would be devastating. They want bars’ sidewalks open until 2 a.m. on weekends.
The underlying complaint—and it is by all means a legitimate one, whether or not you agree with the solution—has been that downtown’s noise and litter has rendered it, in Hatem’s formulation, unlivable. We wanted to get a sense of what those complaints actually looked like. City staff prepared a document on just this subject ahead of last week’s Law and Public Safety Committee meeting, which the INDY
obtained on Friday. The document is presented in its entirety below, with the names (and addresses and phone numbers) of those making the complaints redacted. (The idea is to better understand what sort of complaints are being made, not necessarily who is making them. That said, as the bar owners have pointed out, many of the complaints do come from the same people over and over again.) Our source stressed that many downtown residents have simply given up on calling the cops—they would rather contact city officials, as the complaints to the cops don’t really seem to have the desired effect. And indeed, roughly half the complaints went to either the city manager’s office (designated as CMO) or City Council. (Back in June, I asked the city for all emails to City Council members about the PUPS ordinance. I have been given some, but not all.)
Before diving in, four overarching things we noticed:
- Yes, some of these complaints come from the same people. For example, of the 50-plus complaints logged downtown and in Glenwood, six came from one person on one day, June 18—a cornhole game at Tasty 8’s, furniture blocking the sidewalk in front of Capital City Tavern, Twisted Mango and Anchor Bar, ropes tied around benches at Paddy O’Beers, and lighting and crowds at Coglin’s.
- A majority of the complaints focus on crowd control/overcrowding, as well as furniture impeding the sidewalk.
- Most arrests and complaints occurred on Friday and Saturday nights, unsurprisingly.
- The bars are never cited for violations based on the complaints lodged against them.
See you tomorrow afternoon, everyone.
Additional reporting by
INDY interns Kaitlin Montgomery and Rachel Smith. Also, many thanks to
INDY designer Maxine Mills, who assisted with the redaction.
Complaints (June 1 - July 30) Redacted 2comp (1)