City of Watertown releases statement on outdoor dining in downtown


WATERTOWN, NY — The city of Watertown released the following statement on June 4, 2020:

In June 2019, as a means of activating the public realm downtown, the City Council of the City of Watertown adopted new enabling legislation for outdoor dining uses within the Downtown Core Overlay with the intent of streamlining the application process for dining establishments that wish to establish outdoor seating on and around Public Square.

With restrictions on indoor gatherings aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, and restaurants unable to operate their dining rooms at full capacity, the added dining space from outdoor seating will be essential for restaurants nationwide to reopen safely and profitably in the summer months of 2020. The State Liquor Authority (“ SLA”) is well aware of this and, effective June 4, 2020, issued specific guidelines concerning how licensees and municipalities are to be governed in allowing the expansion of outdoor seating.

The City of Watertown recognizes the immense value that restaurants bring to our public realm and our economy, and always seeks to be a helpful partner to our local businesses. The City has already received applications from two downtown restaurants and encourages others to apply.

Any downtown restaurant owner interested in establishing outdoor seating may contact the Planning Department at (315) 785-7725 or email to learn more about the streamlined process and about how to submit an application.

Outside the downtown area, many restaurants have space on their own properties to set up outside seating that will not affect the City Right-of-Way, and thus would not require permission to use City property. In locations where reasonable opportunities exist to use City property for expanded seating areas, the restaurant owner should contact the City about obtaining a license agreement in order to do so.

All restaurant owners must be cognizant of their responsibilities to the SLA and to the City in outdoor seating areas. To be clear, under the newly issued guidelines, the City will require that the SLA have jurisdiction over a licensee’s operations on City property. This will require specific filings with the SLA by both the City and the licensee. The SLA-imposed obligations and responsibilities are in addition to, and do not serve as a replacement for, a licensee’s responsibilities under Sections 265-26 through 265-31 of the Watertown City Code.