Ald. Tom Tunney’s (44) proposal to create a two-year pilot program that would let restaurants put outside seating along parking lanes instead of sidewalks got the approval from the Council’s License Committee.

Committee Members Present (13/18): Vice Chairman Deborah Silverstein (50), Gregory Mitchell (7), Marty Quinn (13), David Moore (17), Matt O’Shea (19), Willie Cochran (20), Michael Scott, Jr. (24), Walter Burnett (27), Scott Waguespack (32), Michele Smith (43), Tom Tunney (44), John Arena (45), James Cappleman (46).

The $600 permit is geared towards restaurants that want outside seating but don’t have room for a traditional sidewalk cafe because they’re located on “really old and narrow” sidewalks with a lot of foot traffic, co-sponsor Ald. Michele Smith (43) explained.

Unlike the sidewalk cafe season, which runs from March 1st through December 1st., the curbside cafe permit would run for five months, from May 1st to September 31st. The shorter time frame, according to Ald. Tunney, keeps the program affordable, because restaurants would have to pay for anticipated lost parking meter revenue.

The only concerns aldermen raised in committee had to do with safety, or more specifically, how to protect patrons from oncoming car traffic. Rose Kelly, with the city’s Law Department, and Tony Bertuca, with the City’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, addressed those concerns in their testimony, noting restaurants would have to construct a removable, physical boundary shielding the cafe from traffic lanes, as well as a removable, raised platform that would be even with the curb. But the exact measurements, required building materials, and other specific details have yet to be drafted, they said.

In order for a restaurant to qualify for the program, it can’t already have a permit for a sidewalk cafe or be located in the central business district (i.e. downtown). Curbside cafes are also barred from locating along a protected bike lane, 30 feet from a stop sign, 30 feet of a controlled intersection, or 1,200 feet (about 2 city blocks) from Wrigley Field. The restaurant must be located on a pedestrian designated street, which, according to the city’s zoning code, is defined as any street that meets the following criteria: a sidewalk width of less than 8 feet, a high concentration of existing stores and restaurants and a mostly continuous pattern of buildings that are built abutting or very close to the sidewalk.

While no one from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association testified at yesterday’s meeting, the group issued a statement supporting the plan when it was first introduced in July.