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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Live blogging Raleigh's Law and Public Safety Committee Meeting

Posted by on Tue, Jul 28, 2015 at 2:57 PM

Welcome to the INDY's live blog of Raleigh's late July Law and Public Safety Committee.

We'll be following the committee's discussion of the proposed outdoor drinking rules that a task force, composed of city staff, resident reps and bar and restaurant owners, have worked on for the past six weeks.

There are more than 100 people here already; expect things to be fun. Bar/restaurant owners/patrons/fans are wearing blue. Committee members are May Ann Baldwin, Wayne Maiorano, John Odom. Assistant city manager Marchell Adams David and assistant city attorney Nicolette Fulton are on hand. 

3:00 p.m.: Meeting's beginning. MAB says its nice to see so many friendly faces. Derrick Remer will do a city staff presentation and then committee will ask questions and open it up for comment. 

3:02 p.m.: She asks for a show of hands for who wants to speak. Ten people want to speak. 

3:03: Remer's presenting. "It's a controversial issue, a lot of strong opinions, but we've had some good conversations." They've found consensus on some things, but not others. Only thing we're talking about today is private use of public sidewalk. That's it. Just the sidewalk. Committee met for 6 weeks. 

3:04: Outstanding items include hours of operation, occupancy limits, cost recovery for the city. Time limits: resident recommendation to limit outdoor dining until 10 during the week, midnight on weekends. There was a compromise on Sunday-Thursday, which is midnight. On Friday and Saturday, split vote between keeping closing time at midnight and pushing until 2 am. Occupancy: go with building code recommendations, 1 of 3 options. 5, 7 or 15 square foot per person. Cost recovery mechanism: help with enforcement, push up permit from $150 to $300; a total of $4200 a year.

3:06: MAB wants to know what we're going to do with $4,200 a year?

3:07: Staff looked at other cities, and heard from visitors to downtown, the Hospitality Institute. Other cities close down at midnight or earlier, so the City staff thinks closing at midnight 7 days a week, 15 square feet per person occupancy limit, layout is building side only and no cost recovery mechanism needed. 

3:09: Odom asks if the side means keeping people against the wall? Remer says yes, it keeps it easier to confine patrons.

Fulton says building side only layout is compliant with ABC regulations on alcohol consumption. 

3:10: WM: What cities did you compare? Remer: Alexandria, Auburn, NY, Charleston, Chicago, Greeneville, NC, Madison, Princeton, Richmond, Wilmington, New York City...etc. Not a lot of precedent for going until 2 a.m. Boise and Pittsburgh stay open until 2, but in Pittsburgh it's table service only. 

3:12: Occupancy in layman's terms: it's the difference between sitting and standing. 

3:13: Source of info is from N.C. state building code. Some areas are used for tables and chairs: the occupancy is 15 square foot per person. If standing room only, that 5 square feet per person. NC Building code has provision for multiple occupies.. You can combine them.  

3:14: Remer: one business we analyzed allows for 18 square foot per person. It could allow for 57 people in a 200 square foot area.

3:15: But then we also have reverse case, impacting some places negatively like Bittersweet, MAB says. Remer says there is a tree there that could make it non-ADA compliant. They are working with Bittersweet to see if it's ADA compliant. 

3:16: WM: "So it's ours, we can fix it and make it ADA compliant?" Correct. Adams David says Boise and Pittsburgh were associated with outdoor dining only. 

3:17: WM "Re. occupancy, what level of flexibility do we have if we want to go from 15 to 10 square feet?

Fulton says you can't supersede the NC law. You can't exceed 15 sq. ft. net capacity. WM: So state law will dictate what we can do, we don't have discretion?

3:18: Remer: State law sets capacity, we could set a more stringent capacity but not a lesser. Fulton says Raleigh has not been cited for being in violation.

3:18: WM: Building sidewalk layout: was the recommendation to push everything to the building side? Correct. 

3:19: So how much discretion do we have to deviate from that? Wasn't Fayetteville Street created for that purpose? Is there flexibility to change that? 

3:20: Fulton says the city cannot supersede any NC ABC regulation. As a result, we can't override a state ABC law. If it's still compliant with ABC regulations, we are fine. We would have to meet the spirit of the law by ensuring the  general public is separated from any of the business patrons.

3:21: Can that be achieved by stanchions? Fulton says yes. And it's a non-factor if the place doesn't serve alcohol.

3:21: MAB: Unless this is all enforced, we've made enough progress, so what's the plan for that? Remer suggests a 6-month trial period to make sure this all works for everyone. We will have enforcement from RPD, zoning. We'll discuss what resources we can put towards enforcement.  

3:22: It's about making policies that stand the test of time without having to do a bunch of enforcement. Marchell Adams David is talking about "ease of enforcibility." It needs to be consistent and enforced on a nightly basis. Work with RPD to handle enforcement. The level of enforcement may change in the upcoming months. 

3:23: Deputy Police Chief Quinn: Rules and regulations are complex. We get busy after midnight downtown. We are concerned if these rules are too complex when coupled with downtown issues downtown after midnight. We ask this be as simple as it can be. 

3:25: MAB is asking, is splitting hours complex? RPD could do that but the more we layer this the more difficult it will be to enforce. 

3:26: MAB has more questions for Remer. So this will cause unintended consequences. Does this just apply to central business districts? Remer says policy was devised for all of Raleigh, the city as a whole. It could be scaled down to the central business district but that goes to layered approach and ease of enforcement.

3:27: Fulton says PUPs is currently limited to central business district only. Fulton says complaints have been limited to downtown central business district. Doesn't included Glenwood. How many complaints in Fayetteville Street are, MAB asks. 

3:28: Total of thirty complaints for just Fayetteville Street. Complaints to RPD and city manager's office.

3:29: MAB: Do we have a number on how many people complained? Are they multiple from the same person? *Laughter* Adams Davis says complaints to managers come from 5 different people. People laugh again, "we're not going to have any of that!" MAB says. Fulton: 19 of 30 complaints come directly from RPD. 

3:31: Fulton: Notice of violations that could have been dismissed have been suspended.  A number of violations were to people on committee? The city issued NOV's to Anchor Bar and Twisted Mango; they have since come into compliance. 

Time for speakers. 3 minutes per person. 

3:32: Zack Medford: Owns 3 bars on Fayetteville. Big question is, do we want people to stop coming downtown after 11? If answer is yes, then i have nothing more to say. We are blessed to be in a city that has 6 months of patio weather all year. That is the culture we're working with. We're doing ourselves a dis-service if we try to imitate other cities. Glenwood hospitality district was a great way to show that leadership. If we force businesses to cut off sidewalk service at midnight, it will discourage future businesses form opening, hurt revenue of local business who pay a high amount of rent and took risk to come downtown. These layout and capacity restrictions need to be enforced. They alone will reduce number if people on sidewalks. I agree with those but reducing hours will have major detrimental effect. Let's find a smart solution that fixes the problem and addresses the issues. ^ month evaluation period is great. Find a solution that will fix complaints and wont hut local business. If we find we aren't restrictive enough, then tighten down. Existing laws have not been enforced. Then they were. they brought out of compliance bars back into compliance. Open the lines of communication. If a bar is continuously having problems, reach out and fix it with them. We won't cut down on noise by closing sidewalks at midnight. 

3:37: Dan Lovenheim: 2 camps, 2 different ideologies. One would prefer ending outdoor dining at midnight, other would prefer closing at 2 am. A big groups stands up to ask that  outdoor seating stay open til . Won't solve noise issues, will just make it difficult for bars to cater to crowds and police activity.

3:38: Jim Belt. He's giving resident perspective. Co-founder of Downtown Living Advocates. I am confident that most downtown residents do not support closing outdoor dining as early as midnight. Some residents, a vocal minority, believe this will help contain noise and litter. Strong evidence it won't make any difference. Noise and litter is a function of people congregating, it doesn't matter what time. People will still be bothered. Noise can be handled by a simple bedroom fan. Most people have a fan in their bedroom, and it is successful at cutting down noise. We're only talking 6 hours a week. In terms of cleanliness, it's up to merchants and the city to make sure sidewalks are clean before 99% of residents walk out their door in the morning. That means at daybreak. The sidewalks need to be cleaned. Residents support having access to sidewalks. Stanchions and partitions will ensure sidewalks remain open. But residents do not support focusing this on a small group of merchants. Businesses cater to the needs of their customers. We would love to have restaurant patrons come in in a steady stream, 6 days a week, starting at 9 and leaving by 11. But they pile into their establishments on weekends, starting to 11. These businesses have to flex their capacity, with an outdoor dining permit. They are responding to the needs of their customers. It's unfair to target a small group., Restaurants cater to different set of needs, customers. 

3:43:  Andrew Stewart, Empire Properties. He was on the task force. At Raleigh Times, we tried an experimental layout. I stood outside and watched from 10:30 until 2 a.m. The layout was using stanchions to reduce the amount of space taken up. I realized there are all kinds of technical things we can do with capacity, stanchions, other margins, but it still ends up being difficult for enforcement. Off-duty officer weighed in. Simplest solution to enforce is the way they would like to go. Be straightforward. One option was midnight shutoff, including max building code occupancy. To me that is a very simple solution. We have balanced interests in our downtown community and need to take them into account. All peoples' interests need to be taken into account. Other cities have had to deal with this before, and they have a cutoff time to end what's happening outside. No one is asking to close or shutdown at midnight, just to take it inside. For Empire, eliminating sidewalk dining would be a financial hardship but we are willing to sacrifice for greater good of the community.

3:46: Will Marks. I want to clear up a misconception: nobody I know- resident or business— wants anyone to leave downtown at 11 at night. That is a misunderstanding. Another is, people who are interested in more regulation—which we started talking about in a year ago in a sub-committee—we know we have a serious problem. We are not a vocal minority. There is research to show what people who live downtown think. That does not have merit, the claim that people know what downtown residents want based on research. We were ignored when subject was outdoor amplified entertainment, and there was a written petition. I submit we are not some loud, cranky minority. I have lived all over the US, i know what noise sounds like. I have stopped calling the police because it doesn't make sense anymore. i send an email once in a while. We are asking for relief, not to shut businesses down but take greater good and public health into consideration. I understand tightening screws later, but we already had that conversation. We are talking best practices, common sense, greater good, public health. There is a higher calling we all have to answer for. It is not 2 in the morning. 

3:50: Jennifer Martin. I've talked with business owners and universities. We have forgotten there is a large student body population who is interested in this discussion. How would this impact vibrancy? Economic impact? From 11-2 at night, 90% of revenue is made by these businesses. Look forward to the economic impact. Open lines of communication is critical to having positive changes and impact, working together. We encourage this six month review period, and communication ongoing during that. I stand for 2 a.m. for the future success of small businesses. But I do believe communication and enforcement has to exist. 

3:53: Brian O'Haver was on the task force. Should we like hours of operation with occupancy? I was willing to say let's consider 2 a.m. If we allow standing room only, consider earlier close time. About half task force agreed, half did not. For me as a downtown resident who frequents PUPs...make the best decision for the community, visitors, residents, patrons, owners. 

3:55: Dr. John Cole, Dawson resident. People have been talking about added revenue with having these businesses in town, but based on my conversations with developers, bars tens to depress property values. The public health consequences of residents not being able to sleep. It's fine if people want to stay out at a bar until 2, but the concern is for people who want to sleep. Adults who don't get 7-10 hours of sleep get all kinds of diseases. No one is saying you can't stay at a bar until 2, but we are asking to move it inside because most adults try to get to bed by ten. Smoking is allowed in our country, but we have laws preventing smokers from being in public spaces that impact health of general population. No one can deny that people congregating outside bars are noisy. Medical studies show if sleep cycles are interrupted, they face same health risks of cancer etc as those who realize their sleep has been interrupted. You can't make up for that with catch-up sleep. So people who go to bars are also having health difficulties. But I'm talking about peoples rights to get a good night's sleep.

3:59: Kenneth Yow: Resident, owner of Calavera and the Meatball shop. We have laws in place that address what residents have been complaining about. It would be devastating to us for shutting down at midnight. People would close out and leave and come downtown less and less. That would affect people, their income and their livelihood. 

4:00: Jes Cronmiller: you are talking about residents, city staff, police etc. I'm a server and most of the people here are. Most make money between 10 and 2 am on Friday and Saturday. That is huge part of our income. I make almost all my money outside between 10 and 2. People who don't make money can't spend it. I spend money between 10 and 2. That's less money made by businesses, less in taxes, less to vendors. A lot of us could lose our jobs because businesses wont need us. We get less shifts, we go to the food bank. It affects a lot more of us than just the guys who own the business.

4:20: Niall Hanley, Hibernian. No one disagrees enforcement needs to be better and that is the city's responsibility. By whittling away tables, our resources, is a solution's to not being able to enforce what the issues are now. If city added money to enforcement, bring in fire department, eg, create perimeters, stop people wandering you would solve a huge amount of this. I differ that bars and restaurants don't add to the city of Raleigh. We are the reason these buildings and towers are being built. I have 600 employees downtown. That's a lot of tax base and i pay a lot of taxes. We are here. We deserve a fair shake. I'm not saying there aren't issues, but we need to address them and enforce the, Raleigh has achieved the vibrancy it wanted: why would you want to take that away? Enforce the laws, let businesses manage themselves, with bouncers etc. Give more resources to the people who are supposed to enforce this. 

4:05: Hans Wong. Attorney and resident. Raleigh has livable streets. I've been told we don't want to penalize innocent bystanders for failures of a few, but that is what we are doing. The six month pilot program will devastate businesses. There needs to be something better than what has been proposed. It's a penalty for the failure of a few who detract; it's penalizing the rest of us, it's penalizing the community. Postpone anything as drastic as impacting businesses financially and let's take a shot at this. I wasn't interested to hear about those cities that have rules in place, but no one explained why. Is Philadelphia cleaner than here? A lot of these discussions is noise; let's consider real impact and not penalize people who weren't part of the original dispute.

4:08: No more speakers. MAB asking DRA's David Diaz to explain how cleanliness issues will be addressed and will DRA coordinate? Yes, we are meeting with city staff to look at a couple areas. Trash cans were taken up a number of years ago and replaced with Big Belly solar receptacles. Our staff is surveying where to add more receptacles. Downtown is busy day and night. We need more options for people to do the right thing. Invested in sidewalk cleaning machines, etc. But it is still hard to keep up. It's not just late night, it's weekends, day times, outdoor festivals. We are talking more receptacles for less litter and more coordination with our group, merchants and city.

4:11: Remer: Cleanliness is responsibility of businesses. Self-policing has been the option for 8 years. MAB: Well self-policing without the enforcement is the problem.  

4:12: I'm a business guy, I'm aware of the economics piece. I understand different businesses make money at different times. How did we get to 2 a.m. closing? Did it just evolve? Fulton: 2 a.m. is hours of operation under ABC rules.  Odom: And most cities are shutting down at 12? Fulton: We can be more stringent than state. Odom: I don't like state's rules. Cornhole game is a complaint? Adams David: Yes, a corn hole tournament covered up a sidewalk and people had to walk in the street. 

4:15: Are we giving people warnings? That seems to be a complaint from the business community. I'm not in favor of pushing everything against the wall. It makes for better community to be able to walk throughout hose tables. I like the clutter at Raleigh Times. We need a way to keep that open. Stanchions or whatever. I'm leaning towards saying close at 1. I'm leaning in that direction.

4:18: MAB: If we go to max capacity, it reduces number of people on street? The higher number (15 people per square foot) does. Adams David: to clarify, staff couldn't find any place in the country that permits standing room only. MAB: Who makes that determination, seating vs. standing? Urban Design Center would work with businesses to maximize their space, according to Remer. 

4:22: MAB: When you talked about maximum capacity, you also talked about leaving hours til 2? Brain O'Haver: You're confused because 2 different camps. 2 a.m. wasn't predicated by the lesser square footage. Urban Design Center is not involved with PUPS process. They did layout analysis for all 25 businesses as a special request. No other cities provide for standing use only. 

4:25: MAB: in listening to all of this, people have not been able to compromise. I would propose a midnight closing Sunday thru Thursday, 2 am. on Friday and Saturday evening with maximum capacity. 6 month trial period. I want to see a plan from staff to communicate and work with merchants so there are no surprises. And having Urban Design Center or city work with merchants to maximize capacity Finally, Niall Hanley's idea about fire department checking occupancy levels should be considered. Adams David: That is an option. 

4:27 WM: We are grateful to merchants and their employees. They are important to our city. This decision cannot be narrowed to noise, cleanliness, environment. I recall when tumbleweeds were blowing downtown. You have helped us grow. But vibrancy means different things to different people. We are creating an urban experience Raleigh doesn't' have a full framework for. An environment with mixes of uses. That is a lot of competing uses, experiences and activity that will take time to figure out. There will be challenges. We're talking about a great downtown of 7,000 but we need to be talking about a downtown of 50,000. People need to understand what it means to live in an urban environment. I have heard competing, conflicting statements. I have hear it's city's responsibility to enforce and police and then self-regulate. Both have failed, collectively failed to take ownership of vision we want to downtown and this is a manifestation of it. We haven't reach a compromise, and how is Baldwin's recommendation different form what we have now?

4:31: It limits capacity outside, limits number of people outside. No 100-200 people outside. It would be sanctioned off, areas where people can sit and be served but no spillage over to sidewalk. Reduces noise, access to sidewalk, which is what we asked for. Reduction of hours to midnight Sun-Thursday is two hour time difference during the week. Weekends are the same but people are making money from 10 to 2, I don't want to be responsible for taking way their livelihood. And we are reducing numbers and therefor noise. 

4:33: I get the sweat equity but I'm not sure I'm hearing much more in that than we're defining what we should be enforcing. I think simplicity makes sense. I would be inclined to reduce hours of operation to midnight on the weekends, as well as the entire week. Splitting sidewalk makes sense. Let's do that. Business owners need to take more responsibility for street fronts. We should enforce more, increase communication and education. Have meetings with much more engagement taking place. 

4:34: Odom: He proposes to go to one a.m. cutoff. Restaurants and bars are still open inside.

4:36: MAB accepts 1 a.m. hour of operations cutoff. Max capacity for outdoor seating will be instituted and develop communications and business plan to work with merchants. Get fire department involved to supplement occupancy enforcement. And 6 month trial period, come back to Council with a report. 

4:37: MAB: We are going with seating, but we want that revisited in 6 months. 

4:38: That whole motion passes. 1 a.m. close time on weekends, midnight on weekdays. Sitting room only. Fire department to help with enforcement. 6 month trial period, with report to follow. 

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