Restaurant, Bar, Nightclub CAG Reconvenes This Thursday (Not, Regrettably, at a Bar)

Did you know that, under Charlotte’s current regulations, a restaurant that does nothing more than provide live piano music for its guests could run afoul of its zoning provisions? Or that a restaurant owner who hires a balloon artist to entertain children during dinner could have his establishment classified as a nightclub?

With its vague definitions of restaurants and nightclubs, the City’s existing zoning code creates a great deal of confusion for owners and operators of dining establishments, as well as for the commercial brokers who need clarity to understand whether or not a particular use will be allowed on a client’s property. But an effort is underway to change that.

In Charlotte today, a restaurant is defined as, “An establishment designed, in whole or in part, to accommodate the consumption of food and/or beverages.”  The only other recognized use for a dining establishment is a nightclub, which is defined as, “Any commercial establishment serving alcoholic beverages and providing entertainment for patrons including bars, lounges and cabarets.” Nowhere in the current zoning ordinance is the word “entertainment” defined.

As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between restaurants, nightclubs and bars, and between 2010 and 2011, the city issued more than 29 notices of violation to establishments that failed to comply with their zoning conditions (most were for separation requirements). So in 2011, the City began the process of developing new definitions for restaurants, bars and nightclubs, to eliminate confusion and provide greater flexibility for property owners. The process was put on hold in 2012 while the Noise Ordinance was updated, and got underway again late last year.

The stakeholder group is currently considering whether to create a zoning definition for an “Eating, Drinking and Entertainment Establishment,” which would replace the current definitions for restaurants, nightclubs and bars. REBIC is evaluating the proposed language, which is summarized HERE. We welcome any input from our broker and commercial developer members on this important subject.

The next Stakeholder Meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 9 at 6 p.m. at the Government Center. Anyone interested in the issue is encouraged to attend. For more information on the City’s Restaurant/Bar/Nightclub stakeholder group, click HERE.

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