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Is Stu Bykofsky the Omar Little of Sidewalk Cafe Tables?

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By Joe McNulty

If you're walking down the sidewalk in Philadelphia, you have Stu Bykofsky to thank. According to Bykofsky's latest Daily News column, he and "lifetime pedestrian" Bob Arrington don't take kindly to sidewalk cafes mussing up an otherwise perfectly manicured thruway. Like a partnership between The Wire's Omar Little and Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket, Bykofsky and Arrington are performing field inspections on the so-called "amenity." They're bringing a tape measure, a well-thumbed copy of the city code, and a white glove. So straighten up that (illegal) sandwich board, scoot that Fermob bistro chair in as far as it will go, and tell your customers to be on their best behavior.

Of course, one issue not tackled in Bykofsky's latest screed is that sidewalk cafes are only permissible in areas for which City Council has passed an ordinance. For instance, the widely touted straw man of sidewalk cafe arguments, Rittenhouse Square, is part of Center City's zoning overlay, which allows sidewalk cafes by right. Applicants need only show plans that prove they are keeping the requisite amount of open sidewalk space and then pay a $175 permitting fee.

Restaurants not fortunate enough to be located in such an overlay—meaning in roughly 99 percent of the city—require an ordinance for their individual address. City Council must weigh in on each individual restaurant as part of the business' application to the Streets Department and L&I. So if you want to enjoy dinner al fresco anywhere in Philadelphia, make sure it clears councilmanic privilege. Otherwise, you may hear a familiar whistle come calling in the middle of the night.

Sidewalk cafes don't leave much walking room [Daily News]