Leawood City Council approves expedited permits for outdoor restaurant seating

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Leawood restaurants now have an easier path to add outdoor seating when they reopen for dine-in service as part of easing business restrictions in Johnson County and Kansas State during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leawood City Council this week unanimously authorized City Administrator Scott Lambers to temporarily issue expedited permits for restaurants in the city to add outdoor seating, bypassing the normal planning process. At Monday’s board meeting, Lambers offered to use the permits because “all the reports of restaurants trying to reopen indicate that indoor space requirements are basically a killer.”

“They really have to judge whether or not they can justify opening the indoor dining area given the limited space capacity,” he said.

Permits are free and will remain in effect until Dec. 31, Lambers said in an interview Tuesday. No standard application is required. Instead, an applicant must prepare a drawing of the planned expansion that details planned compliance with social distancing requirements.

Then the applicant should contact Lambers at 913-663-9102 or [email protected] to schedule a time for them to come to the site and evaluate the design. It will also consider how the expansion would affect sidewalk traffic and vehicle restrictions in a parking lot if the applicant wishes to expand into these areas.

If Lambers approves the drawing, he will sign and date it and that will constitute an approved permit, he said. This type of permit would normally cost around $100.

Kelly Lindley, director of marketing for Café Foods, which owns Corner Bakery Café Camelot Court at 117th and Roe in Leawood and another restaurant in Overland Park, said the company has no plans to expand outdoor seating, but she praised the council’s action.

“Anything the city can do to help restaurants bring more customers to the store is great for the city and great for the industry during this uncertain time as we navigate the virus,” Lindley said.

Leawood and Johnson County follow Governor Laura Kelly’s plan for reopening the state, which has several phases with gradually easing restrictions. The restrictions are expected to remain in place at least until June 22.

All businesses eligible for reopening can do so if they separate customers, whether individuals or groups, by at least 6 feet. Restaurants can meet this requirement “by using physical barriers sufficient to prevent the spread of the virus between seated customers or groups of seated customers,” according to the plan.

The plan currently limits the number of people seated at a table to 10 who are not strangers. It does not limit the number of people in a restaurant at any given time.

“When I went out recently, it’s amazing how careful the restaurateurs are, wearing masks and gloves…” Mayor Peggy Dunn said Wednesday.

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