A proposal being considered by York City officials would ease restrictions on downtown restaurants that want to serve customers outside.

If the idea is approved by the York City Council, restaurants would no longer be prevented from offering sidewalk cafes year-round.

Currently, outside seating is limited to the months between April 15 and Oct. 15.

The proposal from Councilman Michael Helfrich would also lift a restriction on sidewalk cafes operating beyond 11 p.m. Instead, restaurants could offer outside seating as late as the business is open.

"Business owners have the ability to make up their own minds whether or not it's a good day to put extra chairs outside," Helfrich said.

Helfrich is also proposing to remove a restriction that limits sidewalk cafes to restaurants that generate at least 65 percent of annual revenue from food sales.

The restriction "wasn't being enforced and didn't seem to make any sense," he said.

Sidewalk cafes are limited to restaurants within the city's Central Business District and the Commercial Waterfront District, which borders the Codorus Creek. Helfrich is not proposing a change to that restriction.

Timetable: The council introduced the ordinance amendment at the May 6 meeting. It could vote as early as Wednesday's meeting.

Helfrich initially raised the issue a year ago. At the time, he said, some warm days in March prompted questions from local restaurant owners about why they can't serve people outside until April 15.


Helfrich said he was also interested in revising the ordinance to guarantee more passable sidewalk space for pedestrians — particularly those using wheelchairs.

The ordinance already requires at least five feet between the sidewalk cafe and the interior curbline. Helfrich is proposing to add a requirement of at least three feet of "smooth, even surface" within the walkway.

The current law allows the city to revoke a sidewalk cafe permit for violations of the ordinance. Helfrich is proposing to expand that to include all city ordinances.

For example, he said, restaurants could lose their sidewalk cafe permits if they violate the noise ordinance.

"So, with the additional benefits to the restaurants of being able to be open later and open year round, there will be the additional burden of making sure that their patrons are respectful," he said.

— Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.