A Sidewalk Story

If you’ve been to downtown Columbus, you know that Gay Street is a place to go for lunch, dinner, or a drink.  Will Columbus city workers allow it to stay that way?

From Third Street to High Street, Gay Street is filled with restaurants.  Most of them have outdoor eating areas defined by wrought-iron fencing and decorated with bright umbrellas and flower pots or hangings.  Stop by on a reasonably warm day and you’ll likely find those outdoor areas filled with patrons.

Lately, city code inspectors apparently have been hassling restaurant owners about the patio areas, saying that umbrellas block city airspace and flowerpots violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, and apparently threatening to revoke permits.  Owners say they are trying to be compliant and just want a dialogue.  One problem is that the Columbus sidewalk code was written in the 1950s, decades before statutes like the ADA were enacted and patio areas became popular.

I’ve eaten outdoors at the Plantain Cafe, the Tip Top, Due Amici, and J. Gumbo’s.  All of those outdoor areas are well-defined, well-maintained spaces.  They don’t seem to block anything, and they help to make Gay Street one of Columbus’ most successful streets, with a true urban feel.  I’m hoping that the city inspectors, code writers, and restaurant owners can resolve these issues without interfering with the bustling spirit of Gay Street.  Columbus shouldn’t mess with a good thing.