Warmer Weather Welcomes Back Outdoor Dining

Dining “al fresco,” or outdoors, is something that many people look forward to during the warmer months, and sometimes even year round. When it comes to open air dining, Chester County has many great options to choose from – whether it’s in one of our bustling urban centers or a quiet back patio.

Now that people are beginning to feel comfortable heading out to their favorite dining establishments, outdoor dining and food trucks become great options for those who are looking for a more casual outdoor atmosphere with their friends, children, or even their pets!

While outdoor dining typically expands a restaurant’s space by utilizing sidewalks, patios, and parking areas, other types of outdoor dining establishments – such as breweries, wineries, and food  trucks have become increasingly popular as well. In many cases, outdoor dining is a feature of a community event or festival and can help to boost the local economy by attracting more visitors.

To support these outdoor dining options, many communities have implemented streetscaping improvements and invested in other community amenities that appeal to the public. This includes benches, trash cans, public restrooms, landscaping, and other features. Each municipality can create its own set of outdoor dining guidance and rules, and should do so to appropriately balance outdoor dining with the public’s use and access to outdoor spaces.

Examples of traditional outdoor dining in Chester County include West Chester’s outdoor dining guidance, which requires establishments to obtain a permit prior to opening for the season, as well as Phoenixville’s sidewalk café permit – while special outdoor dining events such as Media’s “Dining Under the Stars” and Kennett’s “Third Thursdays” are also regulated through a permit process.

Additionally, some of Chester County’s urban centers shut down portions of their Main Streets to vehicular traffic in order to serve additional customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Allowing these types of dining options not only helps contribute to a community’s local economy, but also helps to define a Main Street or Downtown’s sense of place by offering a unique experience and setting. To see more of the county’s economic development eTools, visit https://www.chescoplanning.org/MuniCorner/eTools/EconDev.cfm.

The Planning Commission’s eTools cover a wide array of planning topics, from natural resources to economic development. The tools are easy to read, providing a quick overview of each topic, a brief explanation of how it works, and considerations for addressing the topic or regulating use. An alphabetical listing of eTools is available in our Municipal Corner.