COVERED PATIO CONUNDRUM
Everyone wants to sit at the hippest outdoor patio come warm weather, but how do you install one for your own pub, brewery or cafe?
The Business Tribune checked in with urban pub owners and city planners to get the answers.
Mark Moffett, the planner who worked on the Goat Blocks, said eateries located there could do a permitted cover if they wanted, but it would have to be approved through the design review process because of the design overlay zoning.
"To some people, it means you can't do it," Moffett told the Business Tribune. "There are two separate things you can do: ask for permits to have seating areas in the right of way in the sidewalk or out in the parking zone — that's a separate process, you go through the transportation department. The Goat Blocks would be something on private property — there's an on-site little walkway."
Schilling Cider and Cascade Brewing are both in the EXd zone (central employment), under the design overlay.
These eateries, located along Southeast Belmont Street, utilize their urban skyline views with outdoor seating.
"In all these situations when you're talking about a permanent structure ... the answer is a building permit," Moffett said. "If it's under the design overlay, then it needs design review as well."
Schilling Cider House came in for a design review for an awning structure along Belmont Street, but ended up voiding the application and withdrew.
"(If eateries) didn't come in and get a building permit for a patio cover, and what they're doing are like tent-type coverages with temporary permits ... that's through the fire bureau," Ross Caron, public information officer with the City of Portland, told the Business Tribune. "If not, then ... if people want to do a permanent covered area, it's considered a building, a structure, and it needs to be permitted."
In that case, it needs to meet state building code requirements and might even be required to be anchored to the ground with footings to ensure it doesn't hurt anyone.
"The other thing that might be coming up, there may be a building coverage requirement for the lot: only so much of the lot can be covered with an impervious surface — the roof — and if that's the case, they may not be able to do that through the zoning code," Caron said.
Schilling for your thoughts
Mark Kornei, co-owner of Schilling Cider House, said their new patio at the Belmont Goat Blocks was built into the rest of the superblock development during its regular construction permitting.
"We'd love the idea of being able to cover the space — not necessarily in its entirety, but maybe bring it a little more inside in the future," Kornei told the Business Tribune. "We'd work with the city at that point to see if it's possible."
Schilling Cider wasn't involved in the build phase, though.
"There was not a way through the standard building code to actually cover that space," Kornei said. "It was international standard building codes used across the country for this particular type of construction."
The construction types vary depending on materials from steel to heavy timber. The Schilling Cider patio coverage is made of steel support columns covered by wooden beams draped in fairy lights. Between the beams, slats of sunlight — or drizzle — can fall on diners.
Back in March, Kornei was exploring the area with co-founder Colin Schilling for ideas about the patio and its coverage.
"It was pouring and we were thinking oh my God, are people going to be standing out here in the rain having a drink?" Kornei said. "Mulling this over ... we passed by Belmont Station. As we were passing by continuously pouring rain, we found 10 people outside having a pint. We looked at that and said, that kind of answers our question."
Pick your poison
Over at Cascade Brewing Barrel House, general manager and goodwill ambassador Grant Ritchie said they opted for the temporary fire bureau permit.
"There are only so many options. We have our permit through the fire bureau," Ritchie said. "That allows for six months a year... but then you have to take it down."
Going through the fire bureau, he doesn't have to get too involved with the city, but the price for that is the short-term season.
"With the city, it's just a bunch of: you've got to be 10 feet from the sidewalk, 10 feet from the building," Ritchie said. "It just wouldn't have been worth doing, the requirements were so restrictive to try to get it to be a year-round structure. Getting into that, you're potentially getting into design review for the entire building, and jumping through hoops to change the design can get super expensive."
His partial covering is the "path of least resistance for trying to have somewhat of a covering."
"The way you've got to lock it in for six months, you can't have it up for three, take it down and put it back up for three. They give you a six-month block," Ritchie said. "I try to get it up right around Christmas break: our particular business does really well during the holidays, because we have quite a bit of tourism business."
His business can seem seasonal anyway, picking up when the snow melts and slowing down when school starts up again. That's why he doesn't have it up in the late autumn, to shelter from rain.
"Picking my poison, I don't see that I need it so much during July, August and September, and it's more beneficial to have it in May, April and June when business starts picking back up," Ritchie said. "People have been in all winter. Those are the days you have the rain, and then you lose all that space when it's wet (if you don't cover it). That's how I've chosen to do it."
The Cascade Brewing facility along Belmont was once a produce warehouse, and the front that's now the patio used to be a loading dock for trucks to back up and ship out produce to supermarkets. Cascade Brewing took over the location in 2009.
"It kinda just became open patio space," Ritchie said. "All of the space we use is off the sidewalk so we're fortunate in that we don't have to get into the sidewalk cafe permitting, which is an entire other process."
The coverage Cascade invested in was expensive.
"But getting a quality one you can take down and put back up, if you can afford it, is the best if you can do it in the long run," Ritchie said. "It doubles our floor space."
COVERED or UNCOVERED?
If you're not sure what applies to your covered patio, the fastest way to find out is through the city's hotlines:
Zoning hotline: 503-823-7528
Building code hotline: 503-823-1456