A City Council committee is expected to approve legislation today that would remove a legal cloud over the city's right to regulate the growing number of sidewalk cafes that are being enclosed for year-round use.
The legislation, proposed by council member David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, would set minimum standards for the structures that now range from elaborate wood-and-glass partitions to rolled plastic wrapped around metal poles.
About 15 of the city's approximately 100 outdoor cafes are now enclosed, according to the committee, which will consider the new measure at 2 p.m. in Room 115 of the District Building.
The District has allowed sidewalk cafes since 1963. Their number has increased sharply in recent years, but the council has not acted to limit enclosed structures since a Superior Court judge ruled in 1977 that its sidewalk cafe regulations did not specifically cover such enclosures.
Under the bill, owners of existing enclosures would have up to 12 months after the measure becomes law to conform to its standards.
Any new enclosures would have to be approved by the city's Public Space Committee headed by Thomas Downs, director of the Department of Transportation.
The bill also requires that all materials used be easily removed within 24-hours' notice from the city without damage to the sidewalk. The standards would encourage maximum use of transparent material to maintain the openness of the cafes.
Other restrictions would prohibit owners from installing plumbing fixtures or storing food in the sidewalk space. Food would have to be served by waiters or waitresses rather than in carryout operations.