City councilor looks to change zoning rules for outdoor dining

Many Albuquerque restaurants and cafes with sidewalk seating are learning they are breaking the law.

This comes after the city re-worked some of its zoning laws.

City Councilor Pat Davis is looking to change the rigorous and expensive permitting process he said could be keeping local businesses from putting tables outside.

“If your favorite restaurant has a table out on the sidewalk, it’s probably not legal,” he said.

That’s because under the city’s new zoning codes—called the Integrated Development Ordinance, which was implemented in 2017—businesses seeking to put tables outside are required to build a 3 to 4-foot tall wall or fence around the tables and get a professional survey.

“I wasn’t aware that there was such a rule,” Hartford Square owner Sara Hartford said.

“I was not aware of it,” Boiler Monkey Bistro owner Matthew Fuemmeler added.

That means many businesses that have had permits for tables outside for years are now breaking the law.

“We should be able to put a chair right next to our wall and not feel like that’s going against any laws,” Fuemmeler said.

Davis’ proposed changes won’t require any walls.

“If there’s room on the sidewalk, you can apply for just a couple hundred dollars, get a permit and start selling coffee or sandwiches outside,” he explained.

In the meantime, Davis said people can continue to enjoy outdoor dining at their favorite spot with no penalties for businesses.

“We’ve just asked the Planning Department to let people continue under their old permits until we get a new process in place,” he said.

Some people who KRQE News 13 talked to off-camera said they actually prefer the walls because of the extra security, and because restaurants that don’t have a barrier cannot serve alcohol outside.

The city will review the proposed zoning change this summer. If approved, the new outdoor dining ruled would go into effect on Jan. 1.

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