South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Councilman touts new business permit


Councilman Bruce A. Kraus was the featured speaker at the June meeting of the South Side Chamber of Commerce.

The councilman came to outline a new city ordinance requiring a permit for businesses to display their wares on the sidewalks in front of their places of business.

Before beginning on the topic, Mr. Kraus explained that he lobbied to get the Public Safety Chair on City Council when he joined council in January.

“I'm convinced that public safety is the key to resolving many of the issues that we have in the neighborhood,” he said.

In talking with residents and business owners in the community he said the “over whelming response was that we were lax on enforcement.” One of the things he sees as a growing problem on the South Side is expanding sidewalk cafés blocking the public right of ways.

The councilman said he was in favor of sidewalk cafés and believes they can enhance the business district, when they follow the rules.

“They are imperative to the appearance of a business district,” Councilman Kraus said. He cited Harrisburg and its many outdoor cafés as an example of a business district being improved by the outdoor seating.

According to the councilman, when a business is granted a permit to have a sidewalk café, the business owner has certain “duties and obligations” to follow the contract they have with the city. Two of the agreement's provisions most often violated in South Side are obstructing the sidewalk so there is less than the five feet required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and not partitioning off the sidewalk café using something such as ropes and stanchions.

The five feet of unobstructed sidewalk for foot traffic is measured from any obstacle such as a street tree or parking meter, not the curb.

The councilman said he was working on a packet of information that could be distributed to businesses in his district.

Mr. Kraus then moved on to his main topic for the afternoon, the “Minor Street Obstructions: Permit Required” legislation that was recently passed in council.

Calling it “very business friendly legislation,” he said it passed through city council with only Councilman Jim Motznik dissenting.

The legislation was driven by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership to allow and regulate businesses who want to place their merchandise on the sidewalk in front of the businesses. According to the councilman, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office worked with the Public Works Department on the legislation and the permitting structure for minor street obstructions.

The legislation was eventually sponsored by Councilwoman Darlene Harris, chair of the Public Works Committee.

For a $25 fee to cover the city's liability, merchants will be able to put merchandise on the street for sale. They will be permitted to use up to three feet of the sidewalk, as long as there is still five feet remaining for pedestrian traffic. All merchandise will have to be removed by the end of the business day or 10 p.m., whichever is earlier.

However, merchants will not be permitted to operate a cash register or cook on the sidewalk. Those restaurants with encroachments for sidewalk cafés are unaffected by the new legislation.

The Public Works Department will administer the program and issue the permits.


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