As Fairfax County Reopens, More Space for Outdoor Dining and Exercise On the Table

The COVID-19 dining experience in Fairfax County will change tomorrow as more parking lots and other outdoor spaces in Fairfax County could be used for dining and exercise under certain conditions.

As Northern Virginia begins phase one of its reopening plan tomorrow, Fairfax County officials are considering instituting a blanket approval of outdoor dining, fitness and exercise activities.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will consider the plan at an emergency session at 3 p.m. today (Thursday). Typically, approvals for outdoor dining and fitness activities require a range of applications for approval. If the county approves the emergency ordinance today, businesses would automatically be able to pursue outdoor dining and exercise activities.

The county will begun easing COVID-19 restrictions businesses tomorrow (Friday). Gov. Ralph Northam’s order limits phase one to specific activities. For example, restaurants can only operate at 50 percent of their interior capacity.

Here’s more from the proposal:

With the impending expiration of Phase Zero in Northern Virginia, the County 2 needs to be prepared for Phase One. Under current County ordinances and 3 regulations, business owners would typically be required to pursue a range of 4 applications to allow outdoor dining and outdoor fitness and exercise activities. 5 In the midst of the COVID-19 emergency, the cost and time to meet such 6 requirements would compound the stress on economically challenged 7 businesses, hinder the opportunity presented by Phase One to revitalize the 8 County’s economy, and likely result in a continued de facto closure of such 9 businesses. At the same time, processing and deciding such a multitude of 10 applications on an urgent basis would be virtually impossible for the County 11 government and would consume extraordinary amounts of time and attention on 12 the part of the County’s staff and its deliberative bodies, at a time when they are 13 also strained by the emergency. These factors, separately and collectively, 14 threaten the County’s continuity in government.

Conditions for outdoor dining include, but are not limited to:

  • No outdoor entertainment activities
  • Outdoor area must be kept free of trash and debris
  • Temporary tents must be open on all sides and less than 900 square feet in size
  • All tables, chairs and other items must be removable and in good “appearance and repair”
  • Adequate parking must be available for on-site users
  • Parking designated for individuals with disabilities must be maintained
  • The location cannot obstruct sidewalks, travel ways, fire lanes, any building entrance or exit, or interfere with street access for fire department response

The ordinance will not go into effect in the Town of Herndon until the Herndon Town Council approves the emergency ordinance.

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