The New Orleans City Council has created permanent rules to allow restaurants and bars to seat customers on the street and on other business-facing public property, cementing pandemic-era parklets as a facet of outdoor dining in the city.
The Council met this week to decide what the future of parklets in New Orleans would look like moving forward, after two years of the city continuously extending its Pilot Parklet Program. The Council approved a proposal with restrictions introduced by the Cantrell administration, which includes bans on parklets in the French Quarter, on Magazine Street between Washington Avenue and Louisiana Avenue; and in residential districts. Outside of those areas, only one parklet on each side of a block will be allowed.
The city first launched the pilot program in October 2020 as a month-long initiative for curbside dining and parklets, allowing restaurants and bars to expand into public, on-street parking and waiving related parklet permit fees. At least 40 businesses in Orleans Parish have operated a parklet under the program in the two years since, according to city officials.
The creation of permanent rules is important for a number of reasons, primarily compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Parklet locations will now be required to have an “ADA-compliant buildout from the curb/sidewalk that will account for drainage and other design elements,” standards restaurants and bars weren’t required to meet when the program was temporary.
When the pilot program launched, Mayor Cantrell said it was part of a broader vision “to use the public right of way to better support business activities and other initiatives around the city.” The 40-ish parklets permitted under the temporary rules will not be grandfathered in, according to NOLA.com, and next steps for those businesses and restaurants wishing to submit new permit applications have not yet been announced.
Next up, the New Orleans City Council will (eventually) have to make decisions on an even more contentious issue — pandemic-era ordinances governing outdoor entertainment at bars, restaurants and other venues.