Temporary Outdoor Dining

In response to the recognized risk of community spread of COVID-19 and the potential negative impacts that could result from not allowing businesses to reopen, the City of South St. Paul has temporarily modified some of its requirements to allow businesses to serve their customers in creative ways.

As of May 29, 2020, the following changes have been temporarily enacted:

  • Businesses located in a commercial, industrial or mixed-use zone may establish drive-up or drive- through areas, customer ordering, waiting or pick-up areas, or customer seating or service areas on its property to facilitate safe commercial activity conducted consistent with federal and state orders or health and safety guidelines, in accordance with the administrative approval of the Community Development Department.

Any business that desires to take advantage of this opportunity must fill out the following application form and submit it and a site plan showing the proposed outdoor dining area to the City Planner for approval.

Temporary Outdoor Sales Area Form

Please note that any on-sale liquor establishments must have their liquor license amended by approval of the City Council in order to amend their service area. 

A complete explanation of the changes and rules can be found in Resolution 2021-47.

  1. Michael Healy

    City Planner / Zoning Administrator
    Phone: 651-554-3217

Commonly Asked Questions

  • What is the Interim Policy on Temporary Outdoor Service Areas?

To help our businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic, the City Council passed a resolution on May 29th granting the City Planner the authority to approve temporary outdoor service areas for any business in a commercial, industrial, or mixed-use zoning district. Most applications will also need to be reviewed by the Fire Marshall and potentially one or two other City Staff members. The applications will all be “fast-tracked” and do not need to go through normal zoning approval processes or get approved by the City Council.  If liquor service is involved, a City Council approval is still required but this will also be “fast-tracked.”

  • How long is this policy in effect?

The interim policy is currently scheduled to be in effect until July 31st, 2021. ALL improvements related to temporary outdoor service areas must be removed by that date.

The City Council may terminate the policy sooner than July 31st, 2021 if the pandemic situation changes. If the policy is terminated early, all businesses will have two (2) weeks from the date that the policy is terminated to remove their temporary outdoor service areas.

  • What do I need to submit to the City?

For most businesses, you will need to submit a completed application along with a site plan showing what you are proposing to do. The application lists out what details must be included on the site plan.

  • What does it mean that the business has to ensure that there is one (1) parking stall available for every three customers that the temporary outdoor service area can accommodate?

This IS NOT a standard parking requirement where each business is required to operate a parking lot that is dedicated to their customers.

This parking requirement includes street parking (on-street parking) and bicycle parking. The business just has to demonstrate that there is some type of parking within walking distance of their business. It doesn’t have to be on their property, it can be on the street (as long as the street doesn’t have ‘no parking’ signs). We just want to know that businesses have given some thought to how their customers are going to get safely to the business. We don’t want cars parked all over grass yards, parked across sidewalks, or otherwise informally parked in an unsafe manner.

  • What does it mean that I need to put up fencing or a similar barrier if I want to have liquor service in the temporary outdoor service area?

If there will be liquor service, some type of temporary fencing or barrier needs to be in place to control the area. We are talking about snow fencing or some other temporary installation, not the construction of a permanent fence.

  • Can I put tables in a parking lane, on a sidewalk, or in an alley?

The answer is “maybe” and this is case by case. In addition to getting City approval, any restaurant that wants to do this will need to get permission from the government body that owns the sidewalk, parking lane, or alley. If any tables are going into the street itself (the parking lane, for instance), there will need to be a safety plan that will need to be signed off on by our Public Works Director and City Engineer. We don’t want cars accidentally crashing into tables and injuring diners. The safety plan will likely need to include temporary barriers to protect the diners.

In terms of which government body owns each of the community’s commercial streets:

  • Southview Boulevard and its sidewalk, Thompson Boulevard and its sidewalk, Third Avenue North and its sidewalk, and Concord Street (south of I-494) and its sidewalk are owned by Dakota County. Any business wanting to set up tables there will need the County Public Works’ Department’s permission.
  • Concord Street north of I-494 and its sidewalks are a MnDOT state highway. Any business wanting to set up tables there will need permission from MnDOT.
  • The rest of the community’s commercial streets and sidewalks are City-owned streets. Any business wanting to set up tables on a City street will need to get permission from just the City Public Works Director.

Do I still need to get permits for improvements to my property?

The “temporary outdoor service area” approval is a site plan approval that will permit you to operate your temporary service area. You will still need to obtain a building permit if you are constructing any structures that require a building permit (many decks, ramps, etc.). If you are planning a permanent improvement to your property such as a permanent deck, a building modification, or a new asphalt, concrete, or paver brick area, you will still need to obtain normal zoning approvals prior to construction.

Are there any fees for participating in this program?

The City is not charging fees for the temporary outdoor service area program. The Fire Department is also waiving all of their fees for inspecting tents and canopies.

Building permits still will have normal fees. Additionally, if you are planning a permanent improvement to your property, you will still need to go through the City’s normal planning/zoning process and pay any associated fees.