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Louisville Mayor Cuts Red Tape Ahead Of Restaurants Reopening

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John Varanese prepares duck for a turducken in the kitchen of his Frankfort Avenue restaurant, Varanese.

Louisville Metro government plans to waive rules to encourage outdoor seating at restaurants. The announcement comes ahead of the state’s plan to reopen dine-in service at 33% capacity beginning May 22.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the city will waive application fees for outdoor seating permits for restaurants planning to reopen dine-in service. The goal, Fischer said, is to increase outdoor capacity where the coronavirus is less likely to spread.

“The primary options are to make it easier to setup tables on the sidewalk while still adhering to [Americans with Disabilities Act] regulations and to re-purpose parking lots and to setup tables there,” Fischer said.

Gov. Andy Beshear announced restaurants could open at one-third capacity starting May 22 during a press conference last week. Cases of COVID-19 have plateaued in the state, but have not seen the 14-day decline recommended by the White House ahead of reopening.

Several of the nation's top infectious disease experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci have said that reopening without a decline in cases could lead to a resurgence in the number of cases in the coming weeks.

Effective Wednesday, the Metro Department of Public Works has temporarily suspended application fees for restaurants seeking to expand outdoor seating on public property including sidewalks.

Waiving the fees is easy enough, but Metro Council still needs to pass legislation suspending portions of the land development code for parking requirements, landscaping requirements and to allow alcohol to be served outside and in parking lots.

Fischer said his office is working with Metro Council to pass an emergency ordinance to temporarily suspend planning and zoning requirements.

Depending on a restaurant's circumstances, owners may still need to update their liquor licenses with state and local officials.

Restaurants who want to participate will still need to apply for these permits to make sure they are meeting state and federal guidelines for both the coronavirus and people with disabilities.

"We just want to see people go back to work in a safe manner," Fischer said. "So I do want to emphasize that as an important part of this that just because you are going to be able to go to a restaurant doesn't mean you can forget about social distancing."


Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.