Thursday, May 21, the Greensboro City Council in an extremely unusual continuation of its Tuesday, May 19 virtual meeting voted to waive the fees for special-event permits for restaurants.

The special-event permits, if approved, would allow restaurants to expand their outdoor seating areas on to sidewalks and parking lots.

City Manager David Parrish explained to the City Council at the virtual 11 a.m. meeting on Thursday that the city staff believed they could accomplish what the City Council had requested at its virtual meeting on Tuesday, May 19 by use of the already existing special-use permit.

Tuesday, Mayor Nancy Vaughan had suggested that the City Council take action to allow restaurants to expand their outdoor seating in an effort to make up for the indoor seating area that would be lost under Gov. Roy Cooper’s Phase 2 requirements that allow restaurants to reopen at 50 percent of their stated fire capacity. Phase 2 has the additional condition that diners have to be at least six feet from diners at another table, which for many restaurants will limit their indoor capacity to less than 50 percent.

After Vaughan’s suggestion Tuesday, the council had a long discussion about all the problems with allowing restaurants to have additional leeway in outdoor seating and voted to have Parrish come up with a solution.

Parrish said that under the existing special-event permit, restaurants could be afforded additional space for outdoor dining and that the permit applications would be expedited by city staff. He noted that the permits would have to be approved by police, fire, building inspections and field operations, but that they would all move as quickly as possible to have the applications approved.

Under Phase 2, restaurants may open at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22. The permits, if approved, would be good through June 26, which is when Phase 2 is scheduled to end.

Greensboro is notoriously slow in approving permits, so to have a restaurant apply for a permit and have it approved in time for reopening would be a huge departure from business as usual.