Gov. Lamont grants broad leeway to local officials to permit outdoor dining, retail in new executive order

Municipal zoning officials will have broad leeway to let their restaurants and stores set up outdoor dining and retail under a new executive order issued by Gov. Ned Lamont Tuesday evening.

The order effectively suspends many of the local zoning rules, hearings and permit applications that normally would govern outdoor commercial activities to help expedite stores’ and restaurants’ ability to create outdoor areas that comply with social distancing rules when they are allowed to begin reopening on May 20.

Outdoor restaurant seating on sidewalks and even in closed roadways can be allowed by local zoning officials under the new order and restaurant owners will not have to jump through most of the typical zoning amendment or public hearing hoops to receive permission for new outdoor spaces.

Liquor sales will be allowed with food orders in these new outdoor seating areas, but outdoor bars where customers can buy alcohol only will remain prohibited, as Lamont indicated last week.

The new order pairs with the restaurant and retail reopening regulations outlined by David Lehman, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, late last week that ordered restaurants will only be allowed to open for outdoor dining.

Because many restaurants do not already have available outdoor seating or it is extremely limited, the new order is designed to clear much of the red tape and fees that would accompany such expansions before the pandemic, officials have said.

Applicants will have to show only a simple drawing or illustration roughly to scale of their proposed outdoor dining or retail area, instead of the usual formal engineering site plans, and will have to provide a short explanation for how they will handle noise, waste and any environmental impacts. The local enforcement official then will have 10 days to approve or deny any such application and those denied would have seven days to appeal to their town’s planning commission.

Outdoor dining and retail areas must close by 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 9 p.m. every other night of the week, unless approved for extended hours. No live entertainment will be allowed unless it was previously allowed in that outdoor space or the owner obtains permission from the local zoning official.

Thanks to the Hartford Courant for this article.

Full text of the Executive Order is here:  Executive-Order-No-7MM