Summer-Loving: Outdoor Dining Likely in Surf City

Feb 20, 2019

After previous efforts failed, outdoor dining is coming to Surf City under an ordinance expected to be adopted by the borough council next month. The measure could put to rest its hot-button status among business owners, residents and visitors.

While Ordinance 2019-06, introduced at the council meeting earlier this month, lifts the borough’s ban on outdoor dining, it also sets restrictions for approved restaurants and food establishments including setting a maximum of two tables or a counter of no more than eight seats or stools located on the inside or outside of the business. Outdoor tables and chairs cannot exceed 15 percent of the previously approved indoor seats with a maximum of six tables with 24 seats and a minimum of two tables with no more than eight chairs, according to the proposed measure.

“All use of outdoor seating shall cease by 10 p.m. unless otherwise fixed by resolution,” according to Ordinance 2019-06, which also notes outdoor seating is only permitted in the business zone. “Outdoor seating shall be located entirely within the property boundary lines and shall not impede ingress, egress or parking.”

Under the proposal, all outdoor furnishing must be secured while the business is closed or in times of inclement weather.

All outdoor dining is subject to a $50 permit fee along with a survey and photograph showing the proposed location of the seating. Those items must be submitted to the municipal zoning officer annually and no later than April 30.

“Upon review as to compliance with the terms of this section, a license will be issued for a period of one year,” the ordinance states.

Mayor Francis Hodgson said that if a business is found to have violated any part of the ordinance the application will be denied the following year.

“You can’t put them (tables and chairs) on sidewalks,” he told the small cluster of business owners and members of the Surf City Taxpayer’s Association nestled in the back of the room.

The proposed measure is explicit in outlining any current outdoor dining previously grandfathered is no longer guaranteed unless it's been granted approval by the land use board prior the introduction of Ordinance 2019-06.

Currently, seating in combination with tables located outside the confines of the interior walls of any business, including takeout, in the business district is expressly prohibited in the borough. The prohibition includes, but isn’t limited to, a covered patio, a tent-type structure or an area covered by an awning, according to the ordinance.

In 2018, the land use board vetoed an application by Greg and Colleen Gewirtz, who had purchased the Surf City Hotel in April 2017 and sought permission to build a two-tiered outdoor dining deck for approximately 60 seats. The deck was set to be accessible from the street on the Eighth Street side of the structure and from the Beach Club. The tiers were designed to be separated by a few steps, making it accessible from the inside since there is already a tiered dining room. Plans also included a counter to accommodate diners, but that would not serve alcohol.

In denying the request, the board said the application did not satisfy the requirements for a use variance and, by extension, variance for other items, including parking. The hotel is required to have more than 150 parking spaces on site to accommodate guests, diners, employees and liquor store customers. It has 18.

Parking was also part of the discussion of an application by the owners of Wally’s Restaurant, located in the same cutout as the Surf City Hotel, to expand with a second, open-air concept building attached to the existing structure through the kitchen. In that case, the land use board approved the application, saying it was a permitted use and noting parking was an issue in the borough.

A public hearing on Ordinance 2019-06 is slated for 7:30 p.m., March 13 at borough hall. It will be considered for final passage and adoption after the public comment period is closed.

— Gina G. Scala



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