Rehoboth starts year with finalized outdoor dining rules


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

REHOBOTH BEACH – This year, Rehoboth Beach restaurants may have a little more space for al fresco dining on private property, but it remains to be seen if there’s an appetite on the city’s sidewalks.

This winter, Rehoboth Beach officials finalized their al fresco dining regulations, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to keep the hospitality industry running. The city increased outdoor patio space on private property to 1,000 square feet. However, restaurants must obtain permission from the city to do so.

About a dozen restaurants have this permit, according to Lynne Coan, Rehoboth Beach communications manager.

By the end of the year, Rehoboth city officials also unveiled the finished details of sidewalk dining options – specifically the requirement that restaurants have significant barriers and space to separate patrons and pedestrians.

In the first two years of the pandemic, Jersey barriers were installed in parking lots along Rehoboth Avenue to expand al fresco dining. However, this practice was discontinued in 2022, and restaurants were still allowed to dine on the sidewalk if space requirements were met for walkers to pass.

Under the new guidelines introduced in December, barriers must be self-supporting, with no attachments to the pavement or other structure – meaning there can’t be two bollards with a chain between them.

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

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

According to Coan, four restaurants have applied to dine al fresco on the sidewalks, and so far only one has applied.

Regardless of the number of applications restaurants submitted, the Delaware Restaurant Association welcomed the decision, showing that alfresco dining has become part of the “new normal” in today’s service industry.

“Alfresco dining and expanded grab-and-go options have made a huge difference to restaurants during the pandemic, but we know the demand for alfresco dining is a trend that’s fast becoming an industry staple – people want to be in the Being able to enjoy more outdoor spaces, and a little more open space in general,” said Karen Stauffer, senior director of communication at DRA.

“It’s great to see Rehoboth and other cities in our beach communities supporting restaurants with extended outdoor use permits,” she continued. “Changes and adjustments like this will go a long way in preserving our important small businesses.”

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