Leesburg town council votes to make outdoor dining a long-term option

The town council in Leesburg, Virginia, voted Tuesday to give restaurant owners the option for long-term outdoor dining, extending a temporary provision that became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vote passed 6-0-1, with one council member not present.

“Truly, I think this is one of the things we did that saved many of our downtown businesses — our businesses, period,” Mayor Kelly Burk said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Having these tents provided an alternative for people that felt uncomfortable going into restaurants … so I’ll look forward to having those come back.”

The amendment to the temporary outdoor dining provision gives restaurant owners the opportunity to establish outdoor dining areas in their parking lots or on other nearby hard surfaces, such as sidewalks, and removes the requirement of 6 feet between tables.

Newly required, however, is fencing to surround outdoor eating areas.

Councilwoman Kari Nacy expressed concern over the look of the fencing.

“I would not want to see a bunch of those around town,” Nacy said. “(but) I understand it needs to be there for safety reasons.”

Other new requirements include yearlong renewable permits costing $100, and if a business chooses to have a tent, it must be less than 900 square feet.

Other concerns expressed by the council included parking. According to the amendment, businesses would need to provide one parking spot for every four seats of outdoor dining, and outdoor dining could not take up more than half of any on-site parking area.

Dana Sukontarak

Dana Sukontarak is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. She loves haiku poetry, short sci-fi stories and word games. She grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and currently lives in Silver Spring.

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