As expected, the Durham City Council last night unanimously approved a long-gestating revision to outdoor seating regulations that will allow for the consumption of beer and booze on city sidewalks.
The council's approval comes despite opposition from Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez, who'd expressed concern about the inclusion of private clubs (also read: bars) in the revised ordinance. A previous version of the ordinance that excluded nightclubs and bars was introduced to the public in May, prompting complaints from a cadre of interests—Durham Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Durham Inc. and a handful of local bar owners—that the rule would inhibit business growth in the heart of downtown.
Council members opted to side with the bar owners. Of course, eateries, restaurants and nightclub owners have actually been allowing patrons to consume alcoholic beverages on their patios for months. Only now, those who successfully apply for the new version of the outdoor dining permit can facilitate patio drinking with the city's full blessing.
One other interesting note from last night's agenda: Chapel Hill will pay the city of Durham $30,000 for law enforcement assistance on Halloween night.
The Town of Chapel Hill has, in recent years, clamped down, citing the ballooning number of costumed revelers that head to Franklin Street on Halloween night each year. Some 80,000 people attended the event in 2007, according to official estimates. Annual attendance has since dropped significantly as the city began limiting access into Franklin Street and to park-and-ride service.