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Cleveland to allow businesses to operate outdoor patios and parklets along city sidewalks

A person walks past outdoor seating at Heinen's on Euclid Avenue in Downtown Cleveland. July 13, 2023
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
A person walks past outdoor seating at Heinen's on Euclid Avenue in Downtown Cleveland. Cleveland city planners said they looked to New York City's parklets, pictured, for inspiration when expanding the city's outdoor patios.

Cleveland businesses will soon be able to operate outdoor dining, seating and bicycle corrals on the city’s sidewalks and curbs.

The newly amended code, passed Wednesday by Cleveland City Council, will expand a short-lived program that allowed restaurants to accommodate outdoor seating on public property in spring and summer months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The change in code will make one-year renewable permits available as a year-round, permanent option to all businesses, allowing them to create outdoor patios along the city’s sidewalks and curbs, known as parklets.

City planners said they modeled the idea off of New York City’s policies, which transformed protected curbs and sidewalks into usable outdoor dining space when indoor dining was inaccessible during the pandemic.

“I commend you for starting to think out of the box as it pertains to our commercial district,” Councilman Mike Polensek told city planners.

Some Cleveland City Council members like Ward 10’s Anthony Hairston raised concerns about how the parklets would look, what safety barriers would be used and how the city would deal with pedestrian and car traffic.

“Residents are already going through enough and what they don’t need is another situation created with an adverse impact on their community with all these random pop-ups,” Hairston said.

Stores will not be able to sell wares in the parklets without a separate permit.

After discussion, council voted to include stipulations that would create more guidelines for appearance and structure, as well as a requirement for council approval on applications.

Abbey Marshall covers Cleveland-area government and politics for Ideastream Public Media.