Winston-Salem city officials are proposing changes to the current ordinance that regulates hours of operation for sidewalk cafés adjacent to restaurants, bars and clubs in the downtown area. Under the proposal, sidewalk cafés in downtown Winston-Salem would be allowed to extend their late-night hours from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., operate seven days a week, and serve alcoholic beverages other than beer and wine. The changes to the ordinance will be discussed during two public information sessions at the Bryce Stuart Municipal Building on Wednesday, Aug. 24.
Hosted by the city’s Community and Business Development Department, the first meeting will run from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The second meeting will be held from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Residents, business owners and community stakeholders are encouraged to attend and offer their input, said Reuben Gonzalez, the city’s business development administrator.
The proposal to change the sidewalk café ordinance came as a result of the city’s proactive approach to encouraging economic development in the downtown area, Gonzalez said.
“Ten years ago, there was probably one restaurant downtown that a sidewalk café. Now we have 15,” he said. “We’ve had 20 new bars and restaurants open up in the past seven years. When you consider the fact that every restaurant, bar or club opening creates on average 10 new jobs, that’s a significant impact on our local economy.”
The city began a dialogue with downtown stakeholder groups like the Winston-Salem Downtown Partnership and the Downtown Arts District Association several months ago and gleaned their input before making the proposed changes, Gonzalez said.
The Downtown Partnership’s Justin Gomez said Gonzalez made a presentation at a recent restaurant roundtable meeting about the proposed revisions to the sidewalk café ordinance. Subsequently, the roundtable and the partnership’s executive committee voted unanimously to support the changes.
If the city council approves the new ordinance, restaurants, bars and clubs will still have to maintain some type of barrier between their café area and the sidewalk and allow at least five feet of pedestrian space. Gonzalez lauded the Winston-Salem Police Department’s bike patrol unit as being integral to maintaining a safe, family-friendly environment in the downtown area as nighttime activity has spiked significantly in recent years.
“It’s a standard public safety finding that increased development increases public safety,” Gonzalez said. “When you have thriving businesses and a pedestrian friendly [environment], you have an increase in safety.”
Cary Clifford, owner of Camino Bakery, opened the doors to her bakery and wine bar in the 300 block of West 4th Street last month. She says she supports the proposed changes to the ordinance.
“The downtown is starting to feel more European with how pedestrian it is and I love that,” Clifford. “I love how the city is supporting that. This is becoming a city that is rated higher and higher as a place people want to live. Anything involving loosening of regulations on businesses helps with that.”