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Hospitality & Entertainment News Retailing And Restaurants Sussex County

Rehoboth starts year with finalized outdoor dining rules

Katie Tabeling

Outdoor dining is here to stay, and Rehoboth Beach officials have finalized rules for patios and sidewalk tables. | PHOTO COURTESY UNSPLASHED/JESSE MCCALL

REHOBOTH BEACH — This year, Rehoboth Beach restaurants can have a little more room for outdoor dining on private property, but it remains to be seen if there is appetite for it on city sidewalks.

This winter, Rehoboth Beach officials finalized its regulations on outdoor dining, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to keep the hospitality business working. The city increased space for outdoor dining patios on private property to 1,000 square feet. However, restaurants must seek a permit of compliance from the city to do so.

About a dozen restaurants that have that permit of compliance, according to Rehoboth Beach Communications Manager Lynne Coan.

By the end of the year, Rehoboth city officials also put the finished details of its sidewalk dining options — notably requiring restaurants to have substantial barriers and space separating the patrons and pedestrians.

In the first two years of the pandemic, jersey barriers were installed in parking spaces that lined Rehoboth Avenue to expand outdoor dining. But that practice stopped in 2022, and restaurants were allowed to still have sidewalk dining if space requirements to allow walkers to pass were met.

Under the new guidelines established in December, barriers must be self-supporting, without using attachments to the sidewalk or other structures – meaning it can’t be two bollards with a chain in between them. 

The maximum width of outdoor dining in public spaces is the width of the property minus 3 feet from corners, if there is a corner property. The space must also include a distance of 6 feet from two-top tables and 8 feet for four-top tables.

Restaurants must pay $150 to apply and reapply for a license for outdoor dining space, and if the license is granted, a $325 annual fee.

Four restaurants applied to have outdoor dining on the sidewalks, and so far, only one has filed an application, according to Coan.

Regardless of the numbers of restaurants filing applications, the Delaware Restaurant Association applauded the decision, showing that outdoor dining has become part of the “new normal” in today’s service industry.

“Outdoor dining and expanded carryout options made a huge difference for restaurants during the pandemic, but we know that the demand for outdoor dining is a trend that’s turning into more of an industry staple – people want to be able to enjoy more outdoor spaces, and a little more open space in general,” DRA Senior Director of Communication Karen Stauffer said.

“It’s great to see Rehoboth and other other towns in our beach communities supporting restaurants with allowances for expanded outdoor use,” she continued. “Changes and accommodations like this will go a long way to sustain our vital small businesses.”


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