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City OKs sidewalk plan; Restaurants, bars can serve outside in 2015

Restaurants will be able to serve food outside in 2015.

The Austin City Council approved a sidewalk ordinance 6-0 Tuesday during a special session to wrap up business before the new year. The sidewalk ordinance reconfigures the city’s current ordinance to allow medium-sized businesses under state guidelines with licensed kitchens to serve customers outside.

The council discussed a potential ordinance earlier this year after Mark Nagle, owner of Dusty’s Bar and Lounge, approached the city about allowing businesses to put out seats and serve patrons outside.

The city had only allowed businesses to put out chairs to serve patrons as long as 70 percent or more of their sales come from food rather than liquor. Under the new ordinance, medium-sized businesses with state-licensed kitchens could put chairs and tables outside as long as they gated off the area using temporary fencing. In addition, the ordinance would allow outdoor seating until midnight.

Police Chief Brian Krueger had cautioned the council in August against approving the ordinance, as outdoor seating would allow customers to bring alcohol outside. Some people could abuse that rule to walk between bars with alcohol.