10/05/08 — Downtown restaurants now looking outside

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Downtown restaurants now looking outside

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on October 5, 2008 7:51 AM

News-Argus/Greg Sousa

Jesse and Teresa Cox enjoy their lunch outside at Central Lunch in downtown Goldsboro last week. The diner is the first downtown establishment to offer outside seating, which it has since July. The decision to change Goldsboro’s ordinances to allow outs

Take a walk down Center Street, and you might bump into something you never have before -- tables and chairs.

Central Lunch now has sidewalk seating, and it is the first restaurant in the downtown area to do so.

Dee Ismail, the spot's new owner, said that she wanted to create a place with good food, affordable prices and a nice atmosphere, and to her, that meant providing outdoor seating.

"It just gave it a little different touch," she said.

Since July, the restaurant has had space for 10 people to sit and enjoy breakfast or lunch outside.

And so far, the feedback has been nothing but wonderful, she said.

"People love it," she said. "From here you can see the old hotel, and the new city buildings. The view is great."

After growing up in the restaurant business for 35 years and running her own in Rocky Mount for 16, Ms. Ismail decided to venture back home to Goldsboro and continue the trade.

"This is home for me. ... I wanted to come back because our downtown is so much better than some of these other places around here, and I just have a vision for what it could be," she said, giving downtown Wilmington and downtown Raleigh as examples.

"People will make an effort to come downtown. I really see it going back to how it used to be, people living downtown and everything. You can hardly find an apartment down here now," she said.

Ms. Ismail plans to someday turn the upstairs of the restaurant into apartments.

"My plan is to renovate that and live there," she said.

Her plans don't stop there.

She said she is looking into opening up the restaurant a few nights a week, and bringing in live music.

"I already have the fans, outdoor lights and speakers out there," she said.

And hopefully, she says, other businesses will take advantage of the sidewalk seating as well.

"I have already talked to some of them about where I bought some of my stuff out there," she said about the outdoor seating.

The City Council adopted the sidewalk cafe ordinance in April, in an effort to make the downtown area's sidewalks more functional and more aesthetically pleasing and to make the downtown a more vibrant place.

Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. Director Julie Thompson said that interest for the ordinance was initially expressed by owners of the Flying Shamrock and the Corner Coffee Shop, "which is what got us looking into it with the Planning Department."

The department then researched similar ordinances in other towns and created a draft to present to the council.

"I think it is a great ordinance for downtown in that it supports our interest and vision for downtown," Mrs. Thompson said. "We encourage policies, design and activities that make downtown a more social and inviting space. We like to see people enjoying each other and the space around them. This ordinance supports that."

Planning Director Randy Guthrie said that the issue had been discussed in the past, and it was something the council had requested as well.

"It is a common recruitment tool for downtown activities," he said.

To have sidewalk seating, you have to have a permit, and before the city grants a permit, there is an application process, which includes personal information about the applicant, hours of operation, a site plan and health permits.

Sidewalk cafes also must be associated with an operating restaurant, using the same kitchen, restrooms and other facilities, and have the same operating hours.

The seating capacity of the sidewalk cafe can't constitute more than 50 percent of the total seating capacity of the restaurant, and the placement of outdoor seating must be so that there is still 4 feet of unobstructed space on the sidewalk. The outdoor tables must be easily moveable and must be contained with visible barricades, and the restaurant must open up into the sidewalk cafe area. Adequate lighting must also be available.