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 The patio was packed at Toast June 18, with many patrons  opting not to wear masks.

The patio was packed at Toast June 18, with many patrons opting not to wear masks.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Birmingham allows restaurants to expand outdoor seating

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 22, 2020


BIRMINGHAM — To make life a little easier — and safer — for restaurants in Birmingham and their diners, the City Commission has temporarily tweaked outdoor dining standards to allow for more space in alfresco areas.

Under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order, restaurants may open, but at 50% capacity to alleviate health concerns by allowing for social distancing. Birmingham’s expanded outdoor dining program allows restaurants to request additional outdoor dining space through Oct. 31 of this year. They’ll be able to move seats from venue interiors to an available sidewalk, on-street parking zone, or private property with approval from the city.

“The city is pleased to expand its COVID-19 relief efforts for restaurants given recent changes with liquor control and the growing need for outdoor dining space,” Birmingham City Manager Joe Valentine said in a prepared statement. “We’re taking action to accommodate hardships local restaurants face by adopting additional programs to offset their shortfall.”

To help further, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission has approved a new limited-term outdoor service area program for establishments serving alcoholic beverages. With an application, purveyors may temporarily serve alcohol in those expanded outdoor seating areas.

Kristin Jonna, the owner of Vinotecca restaurant on South Old Woodward Avenue, said she’s glad the city is working to help restaurants bounce back safely.

“Operating a restaurant post-shutdown has been easier in some ways and harder in others. On the positive side, guests in Birmingham seem very willing to come back, so our reopening has returned us to March business volumes instantly,” Jonna said. “Our guests seem to appreciate our efforts to social distance them (from each other) and keep them safe.”

That said, staying 6 feet apart isn’t the only way to keep patrons and staff protected from the virus as life slowly creeps back to normal. Jonna said she hopes patrons understand that efforts like wearing a mask aren’t just practical; they’re considerate of those around them.

“Our staff has been so wonderful about getting temperature checks, working in masks and gloves, and practicing many measures of extra sanitation procedures. It’s terribly hot and uncomfortable for them, but they are accommodating without complaint,” Jonna continued, saying most guests haven’t worn masks to the restaurant, and some have even requested waitstaff remove theirs.

“My whole team is still a bit scared, and truthfully, I want them to stay that way so they remain careful. I hope my guests stay that way too because their actions protect us just as much as we protect them.”

Establishments seeking temporary changes must submit an administrative approval application to the city’s Planning Department. Restaurants may contact the Planning Department for more information  regarding the application process at (248) 530-1850.

To learn more about the City’s COVID-19 relief initiatives, visit