Outdoor dining now expanded to Charleston's West Side

Charleston City Council passes a city ordinance to expand outdoor dining into the West Side of the city. (WCHS/WVAH)

A Charleston city ordinance to expand outdoor dining into the West Side of the city has passed.

For a few years now, restaurants in downtown Charleston have been able to provide outdoor dining, but not on Charleston's West Side.

"There isn't enough sidewalk to have outdoor dining and space for people to walk," said Julia Gonzales, owner of Mi Cocina De Amor.

With the help of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, Gonzales and her husband were able to offer outdoor dining in a portion of the restaurant's parking lot.

"In the first year that we had the patio, we were up almost 200 percent in sales," she said.

Gonzales said it helped the city in return.

"We hired more people, so more people are working, we had more income coming in which means we pay more B&O tax, which is good for the city. It's good for sales tax. Tthere's a lot of ramifications of it that are benefits to everyone," Gonzales said.

Now other businesses can do the same. The city ordinance tht allows sidewalk dining areas has been expanded to the West Side, just in time for Tighe Bullock to plan a patio area for Books and Brews that is being built on the corner of Washington Street West and Indiana Avenue.

"After talking with the owner of Books and Brews, we decided it would be a perfect spot for outside dining, with the width being what it is," Bullock said.

City Planning Director Dan Vriendt said businesses that want to add outdoor dining must apply through the city.

"We get the owner out on site and the city engineer and the construction crews, and we lay out the sidewalk and have everyone agree on it before we have the fencing ordered and made, so we get everyone at the table in agreement with it," Vriendt said.

Bullock said this small step is a key to improving business on the West Side.

"Five years ago when you walked around on the West Side you were usually just going from A to B and sometimes as quickly as you could. We have a beautiful neighborhood and a beautiful city, and the more than you can just kind of sit outside and appreciate it, I think it just kind of leads to a paradigm shift in the way people view the West Side," Bullock said.

Outdoor dining won't be possible for all businesses. Vriendt said there will have to be at least 4r feet of clearance to make it comfortable for pedestrians and to meet Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.

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