Derek Slap


Derek Slap



March 23, 2022

Senator Slap Helps to Ensure Outdoor Dining Can Continue Without Interruption Through 2023

West Hartford Restaurants to Benefit from Extension

Today, Senate Democrats passed legislation ensuring outdoor dining, a practice that grew in popularity during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic allowing restaurants to safely offer their services, will continue without interruption through 2023. It extends a bill – originally passed in 2021 – which reduces red tape for restaurants looking to expand outdoor dining. Instead of expiring this spring, the provision continues for another 13 months and will allow restaurants to establish outdoor seating without a lengthy permitting process.

“Outdoor dining has been a lifeline for restaurants during the pandemic, and it allowed people to support their local businesses while reducing their risk of infection,” said State Senator Derek Slap (D-West Hartford). “The restaurant industry plays a huge role in our district, especially in West Hartford, and it adds life and community elements to our downtowns. I’m glad it will continue for another year without issue, and next year, towns and cities will be able to choose to continue allowing outdoor dining indefinitely if they so choose.”

House Bill 5271, “An Act Concerning The Provision Of Outdoor Food and Beverage Services and Outdoor Displays of Goods,” extends laws passed last year to allow the continuation of outdoor dining and retail activities initially authorized during the pandemic. Those laws are extended through April 30, 2023. On May 1, 2023, businesses seeking to continue outdoor dining operations would need to seek local approval. The legislation also reduces red tape so restaurants can expand outdoor seating and ensures compliance with accessibility requirements under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Under the bill, two major processes will remain in place for another year. Zoning officials in towns and cities can continue to expedite public hearings on zoning changes related to outdoor dining. The Department of Transportation can also continue to expedite its review of requests to close parts of vehicular right-of-ways on state highways for outdoor activities.

Studies and surveys show that outdoor dining as an option has shown strong benefits for restaurants and demand for restaurant patrons. The National Restaurant Association reported in October 2021 that, as the Delta variant spread across the United States in early fall 2021, nearly 10% more restaurants offered outdoor dining than in prior months. Restaurants found that outdoor dining comprised a significant swath of sales – 60% of restaurants saw at least 21% of sales coming from outdoor dining – and 71% of fullservice restaurants saw increased customer demand for outdoor seating.

Outdoor dining is a valuable tool to aid restaurants as the pandemic continues to cause tumult in the industry. As of March 2021, more than 10% of restaurants in the United States had closed permanently, impacting millions; flexible options like outdoor dining allow businesses to diversify their offerings and appeal to cautious diners. Many downtown and central areas of towns saw outdoor offerings bring new foot traffic and interest as well.