Senate loses its patio

According to their Facebook page (who knew it would be a source?), Senate, which had a really nifty, outside patio that overlapped the sidewalk is no longer permitted to use it by the City Architect.  Two theories:

  • There wasn’t much room for wheelchair accessibility or sidewalk accessibility
  • Competition complained

I don’t know whether permits were necessary, if they were revoked, or what the exact circumstances were (and I’m looking into it now).  Does Cincinnati’s ordinances regarding outdoor dining need to change now that we have restaurants interested in sidewalk cafes?  Other cities have them– what do you think?



33 thoughts on “Senate loses its patio”

  • The city allows sidewalk patios, responsible businesses work with city government to allot room for them. (Habits in Oakley worked with the new construction plans to get room for a patio) I think Senate’s facebook post is rather childish and found their large patio obnoxious when walking my dog.

    • I’m interested in finding out the process– something I’m very unfamiliar with. I never had trouble navigating it, but I also don’t have a dog (yet..) or a disability.

    • The city’s process is completely arbitrary. See City of Cincinnati v. RP McMurphy’s from 2004-8.

      There are outdoor dining and patio codes on the books, however they are loosely enforced, and restrictive in the least. All it takes is a complaint from a competetor, neighbor, or even the city solicitor himself as happened in the above case (even after he approved outdoor seating). In the above case, the patio at RPs was restricted and a deck was forced to be demolished (again, after the permits to construct it were approved by the city) while their neighbors, the E, were allowed to keep their patio and were not even looked into for compliance with existing code.

      By the way Habits didn’t work with the city to get it’s outdoor dining per se, it was gifted a large patio as a result of the streetscape project in efforts to slow down traffic and simplify one of the most difficult intersections in the city. The larger patio was merely a result of the re-done intersection and they had the good grace to be located on that corner. Not that I mind, the more outdoor dining options we have the better.

      I keep hearing that Cincinnati wants to be more like Portland, or Baltimore, or even Columbus, but restrictive, nit-picky, code enforcement such as this only restricts small businesses from even wanting to deal with the headache it is do do business within the city. Keep it up Cincy, I hope you like eating inside your stripmalls for the forseeable future, because your outdoor options are dwindling.

  • Interesting. Seems as though the city wasn’t going out of there way to help someone who is only concerned about himself. What goes around comes around.

  • I actually called a while back asking what the minimum clearance was for a sidewalk for it to be in compliance with the ADA. I did not mention Senate by name or mention any example, but a city engineer got back to me last week.

    Title II, A, of the ADA, states that the DOT oversees all matters relating to transportation — streets, sidewalks and so forth, which is overseen by the FHWA. Ultimate enforcement comes down to the DOJ.

    Within this, the distance between the property line and the street is the working distance with which the ADA has to work with. Within this path-of-travel, accommodations must be made to conform with modern ADA guidelines — such as curb cuts, slopes and widths.

    Minimum width is 3 feet, or 36 inches. Recommended width is 5 feet, or 60 inches. For shared use paths, this is 120 inches, or 10 feet. In addition, extra width is required — 4 feet, or 48 inches, to meet guidelines for wheelchairs when turning corners, such as from the sidewalk to Senate’s entrance.

    The sidewalk in front of Senate did not meet the minimum width, and the restaurant was out of compliance.

    I think it would be in bad taste for the Relish Group to whine constantly, but it is unsubstantiated. But Senate did put itself out of compliance by constructing a large patio on public ROW — which could not have passed any sort of code or guideline by the city, and was thus illegally constructed.

    • My question is: there are other downtown restaurants with outdoor seating that interferes with right-of-way. Why pick on Senate and not pick on the others?

          • It’s illegal to block the public right of way with a permanent installation; you can’t just decide to build a patio on the public sidewalk, come on! Hamburger Mary’s has a row of small tables crammed up against the building, which can be removed at any time, and which allow free passage of people in varying states of mobility on the public sidewalk. They haven’t put up anything that needs to be torn down or deconstructed.

  • I don’t see how the gentrification of OTR is really beneficial when you’ve got these kinds of squabbles destroying businesses. By the same token, I don’t see how selling really expensive hot dogs to Yuppie, white social elites is a sustainable business venture.

    • “Destroying businesses” that’s a bit much don’t you think?
      They may have to move their patio, they’ll move on, do you really think the loss of the one table on the patio will destroy the place?
      Also, how are the benefits of the gentrification of OTR tied to the loss of a bars patio?

      As for the hot dog thing, it’s a movement that’s been around for a little more than a decade, it’s finally worked it’s way to Cincinnati. The idea is you go out to eat to eat things that taste good and too have fun with friends. (this is not a fast food place)
      Everyone can go out and eat really overpriced “elite” foods, or they could pay a few extra dollars for something they’ll really enjoy, and get a better environment. (can you think of another hot dog place to have some mac and cheese, a hot dog and a fine wine?)

      I’m quite sure there’s a lot about you don’t know about “sustainable business ventures.” How many have you started and sustained?

      • You’re putting words in my mouth. I’m not tying a “bars patio” to OTR gentrification. I’m tying OTR businesses that cater to mostly Yuppie white people — like Senate — to OTR gentrification. It’s not a hard concept to grasp.

        Over-priced hot dogs are not a “movement.” It’s just an excuse to sell really expensive hot dogs. Places like “Hot Doug’s” in Chicago last because they’re affordable to the masses and yet still manage to add originality to their food. The priciest dog on their menu is $4.50. And that’s in Chicago! A $9 hot dog in Cincinnati is an an unsustainable concept, in my opinion.

        While no one can predict the future, I question how long a place like Senate can last amid this kind of economy with the concept it has. There are only so many Yuppies to cater to for repeat business. Add to that the fact that the owners seem really whiny and “oh woe is me” about their dilemma. It’s very childish when their defense for a patio is to point fingers, blame everybody else and say things like, “but other businesses are doing it!”

  • The Senate claimed 4 feet, or 50 inches, before they erased their posts off of the Facebook wall. That puts it below the recommended and above the minimum. Codes requires anything over 4 feet. From what I wrote:

    “I assumed that you had applied for a Revocable Street Privilege for sidewalk encroachment, per Sec. 718-1-R and Sec. 723-6, and that you believed it was in compliance with Sec. 723-14. Was the fire escape that runs between the Senate and the vacant space next to it blocked? Was there any utility boxes, meters, lighting equipment and so forth in the utility strip? There are a lot of unanswered questions, which is why I believe there is more to it than just a competitor.”

    I know that their original patio space was half the width it once was, which would have provided 4 feet of space between the patio and the utility strip — which isn’t considered part of the path-of-travel. When they decided to double the size of the patio and force the users of the sidewalk to squeeze onto a utility strip, which is shared with street lights, parking meters and other obstacles, they ran afoul of the permit and it was revoked.

  • I wish the city would look into Animations sidewalk land-grab on Madison Ave. Their patio takes up nearly the whole sidewalk.

  • Actually, Habits lost a large part of its basement in the new construction plan, and as a trade off was allotted the new patio space. You are correct they did have the good luck of being located at the intersection, my main point was that some businesses choose to work with the community and some don’t.

  • Come on – Have you seen the “patio?” It’s quite far out into the sidewalk, which is not that large to begin with. Somebody screwed up by letting them build it in the first place. Anyway, I’d think they can still open the doors.

    I’ve got nothing against the place – it’s fun enough. Well, actually, the food is mediocre and the prices are sky-high, but that’s OK.

  • Three yrs ago, the calls to complain at 12th and Vine were about the blood that didnt get mopped up from the night before. If a dog walker has to call and complaint about a oversized fancy restaurant patio, that tells you OTR has improved by leaps and bounds.

  • Don’t know any of the other background, but as several other people have noted, Senate’s sidewalk seating was incredibly intrusive to the primary purpose of a sidewalk, which is accommodating pedestrians. I’m glad they have sidewalk seating. But they need to understand that they’re not the center of the universe.

  • Hey Eric, go cheney yourself. I suppose that you would rather see OTR remain a ghetto than see some ‘white yuppies’ invest in the neighborhood.

    • If by seeing “some white yuppies invest” means to kick black people out of the homes they’ve taken pride in for generations, then yes, absolutely.

  • Living downtown, I have to say that I despise the patios dotting the sidewalks – they make it awkward at best when the sidewalks are crowded and they make it very difficult to avoid the smokers. “Being like other cool cities” and “making the city more friendly” are complete lies in my opinion – the outdoor patio seating on Cincinnati sidewalks popped up when the smoking ban went into effect.

    • If you are so hyper sensitive to smoke that merely passing near it, outdoors no less, sets you off then perhaps you should wear a gas mask whenever you leave your home.

      • I’m used to avoiding the smokers – the smoking ban means that you have to avoid smokers gathered around the entries to most buildings (and the waving ashy wands, and the piles of cigarette butts).

        I think my point was that the patios didn’t become prevalent until they became a way around the restaurant smoking bans. Most of the year, in most of the restaurants I see, they are empty except as a smoking area.

  • Standard wheelchairs have to be able to get by without difficulty. Other than that, the patio is a fantastic feature, whether smoking is permitted or not. Outdoor dining and reclining give it a nice European summer feel.

  • Patios aren’t the problem, but I had questioned myself whether the size was appropriate or not. I agree, awkward. Had they not ‘built’ and just put tables maybe less of an issue. I’m really upset that I missed the Facebook commentary…. that would have been far more interesting than the debate on whether patios are appropriate.

  • What about places like Sung Korean Bistro on Elm?? They have tables and chairs set up outside and you have to walk in the street to get past there! If the city wants to crack down, do it for everone not just one place.

  • I currently live in Oklahoma City and it’s a pain to find a (decent) bar/restaurant with a patio. Being able to sit outside with a beer or what not and people watch is always a good time.

  • The original 4′ deep patio was very clever….a very understated statement that accommodated the one step up to the restaurant and provided a cool outdoor space for stand-up commingling. Adding the second 4′ , forcing pedestrians to nearly walk in the street while customers stretched out in low slung lounge chairs, was sheer arrogance.

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