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Excited for more outdoor dining in Kansas City? Here's what you need to know

Outdoor seating is available at most Brookside restaurants.
Carlos Moreno
Outdoor seating is available now at most Brookside restaurants.

The Kansas City Council unanimously approved policies establishing annual licensing fees and outreach requirements for businesses that apply for a sidewalk or street cafe.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurants in Kansas City were faced with capacity restrictions that limited how many patrons they could serve indoors. For smaller businesses in particular, the restrictions also limited their sales at a time when more people were avoiding indoor dining.

In response, Kansas City officials made it easier for those businesses to set up outdoor dining on the sidewalk or street. The city waived certain fees and loosened some of the rules for permits for outdoor dining setups. The result: 81 permits for sidewalk and street cafes were approved, giving diners a safer option and businesses a way to stay afloat.

Now, the Kansas City Council has unanimously approved an ordinance allowing more businesses to take advantage of al fresco dining.

Here’s what businesses should know about the ordinance:

How much does it cost to apply for a sidewalk or street cafe?

An application fee costs $250 and an annual license fee $600. Jason Waldron of the Public Works Department told the council the fees are based on the costs of administering the permits and conducting inspections.

When do the new fees and requirements go into effect?

They become effective on May 15.

If I apply for a sidewalk cafe or street cafe permit, do I have to let my neighbors know? 

Yes. Businesses applying for a street or sidewalk cafe must send a letter to tenants and property owners on the block notifying them of their application for an outdoor dining permit. There’s a 30-day feedback period so neighbors can voice their support or opposition.

Is there a limit on the number of outdoor dining spaces?

Yes. There can only be a maximum of two outdoor dining spaces per block.

Are there any other requirements?

The sidewalk or street cafe must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. A street cafe also cannot interfere with pedestrians, cyclists or cars.

My business already has a sidewalk or street cafe permit. What do I need to do?

Businesses approved for a sidewalk or street cafe under the temporary pandemic program do not need to reapply for an outdoor dining permit, although they will have to pay the annual license fee when the new fees go into effect on May 15.

How do I apply for a sidewalk or street cafe permit?

Business owners can apply through CompassKC, the city’s online permitting system.

As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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