Dare County, Kitty Hawk latest to approve easing outdoor dining rules

By on May 19, 2020

Food trucks, like this one recently operating in Colington Harbour, may soon become a significant part of the dining scene. (File photo by George Wood)

In an effort to ease the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on restaurants, the Dare County Board of Commissioners on May 18 unanimously approved measures that will temporarily allow restaurants in the unincorporated areas of the county to operate food trucks on vacant property as well as use a portion of their parking areas for outdoor seating when the state moves into the second phase of re-opening.

The move by commissioners follows a similar measure by the town of Kill Devil Hills last week to allow restaurants to use 25 percent of their parking areas and operate food trucks on site when Gov. Roy Cooper takes action to allow restaurants and food-service establishments to seat patrons.

And on May 19, The Kitty Hawk Town Council unanimously voted to revise the town’s Emergency Declaration to allow restaurant establishments in the second phase of re-opening to use 25 percent of their existing parking for outdoor seating so long as it does not exceed capacity permitted in normal business operations. It also included language to allow restaurants to utilize outdoor tents to accommodate outdoor seating.  

In addressing the Dare County Commissioners at their meeting, County Manager Bobby Outten said, “This is new and, as with all things COVID-related, we are going to be moving forward and there will likely be glitches down the road. As we encounter those, we’ll come back to you. This may require some modifications, some change either to help the restaurants or if problems arise, firm up some of the rules to try to prevent those kinds of problems.”

The first phase of North Carolina’s re-opening is scheduled to end on May 22, and Cooper is expected to announce within a day or two whether the state has met its goals for moving into the second phase of re-opening. That phase would likely allow for restaurants to open in a limited capacity to comply with social distancing guidelines.

Dare County Commissioner Ervin Bateman, owner of Sugar Creek Seafood Restaurant, recused himself from the May 18 discussion and vote.

At the request of the Outer Banks Restaurant Association in early May, Dare County’s municipalities and the county have been considering relaxing the zoning ordinances temporarily to help the restaurants, which have been limited to takeout, delivery and curbside service since late March.

Under the temporary provisions, food trucks would be allowed on vacant property and have one sandwich board sign at the site. Under the current ordinance, Dare County already permits mobile food trucks and food stands on sites with other existing commercial businesses.

While the current regulations require 10 parking spaces for any food truck, the temporary measures would allow the Dare County Planning Department the flexibility to waive that requirement based on parking demands at a particular site.

The measures also include provisions that would allow restaurants to use a portion of their parking areas for outdoor seating or outdoor use areas. In a memo to the commissioners, Dare County Planning Director Donna Creef noted that, “The state [COVID-19] restrictions apply a 50 percent capacity to retail, and it is assumed this 50 percent capacity may be applied to restaurants.”

The county’s current parking regulations require one parking space for each three seats. Under the temporary measures, in the event that a 50 percent capacity limit is mandated, half the parking area would be available for outdoor seating.

“If no capacity on seating is imposed by the State, just the social distancing requirements, we could adjust the parking ratio temporarily to require one parking space for each six seats,” Creef asserted in the memo. “The main concern is that vehicles are not parked in roads creating unsafe conditions.”

For his part, Outten told the commissioners that, “This may or may not be the final product. We don’t know what to expect yet because we haven’t seen what the governor is going to do.”

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  • Really?

    I am 100% for getting business back open but if it’s still unsafe to dine indoors is it really any different than dining in a “tent”? If you allow tents, the next will be sides added on the tent and then it will basically be indoor dining.

    Tuesday, May 19 @ 5:24 pm
  • CheetahOBX


    So…continue doing what you have always been doing…
    Getting your food from meals on wheels…..NEXT!

    Thursday, May 21 @ 8:01 am
  • TooMuch

    CheetahOBX, love, love your posts! What’s outrageous is the amount of people that think they can just stay home forever and ever and ever. One’s fear (or excuse) should never override the freedom of others!

    Thursday, May 21 @ 3:38 pm
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