GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Restaurants in downtown Glens Falls may have to alter their outdoor dining plans this summer. Scaling back a few tables and chairs may make the difference for accordance with regulations that the city says may have been broken without anyone’s knowledge since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Mayor Bill Collins spoke to the Glens Falls Common Council about Public Right of Way Access Guidelines, (PROWAG) a set of guidelines from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration that moderate right-of-way for pedestrians. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a burst in restaurants looking to seat customers outdoors – unknowingly violating the rules in the process.

“We were, by accident, breaking the law – we weren’t following it to make sure 5 feet of space is on every one of our sidewalks,” said Collins at Friday’s meeting. “This really developed during COVID, when people really wanted to increase their space because they could only use half their space inside a restaurant. They were asking to move tables out, and we were improving it, and now I’m realizing, ‘oh my goodness, some of those were in blatant violation of this.’” 

The city is now in the process of speaking with restaurants who have started operating outdoor dining on the sidewalk along areas like Glen and Ridge streets since 2020, in an effort to work together on meeting PROWAG regulations. Businesses are expected to be asked to fill out applications for new encroachment permits, to be approved at the next common council meeting. To further that conversation, two public meetings are set for this week for restaurateurs to learn more about how their outdoor table-and-chair plans will have to be altered.

The meetings are set for:

  • Tuesday, April 4
    • 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, April 6
    • 2. p.m.

Both meetings are set to be held at the Holden Meeting Room at Crandall Public Library, 251 Glen St.

“Some (business owners) will be upset that they can’t have as many tables outside, and it will look like I’m the big bad guy,” said Collins. “I’ve already had several calls.”

PROWAG guidelines are specifically written to ensure that walkways allow a safe and accessible right-of-way for pedestrians with disabilities. Those accommodations are based on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

New, PROWAG-friendly encroachment permits are expected to be up for approval at Glens Falls’ next Common Council meeting. Also up for discussion at that next meeting will be the possibility of altering the city’s open container laws at the upcoming Wing Fest. Collins proposed allowing patrons to consume alcohol in moderation outdoors along parts of lower Glen and Ridge street downtown – but not much further.

“If a customer walks out with that beer, it would be up to us to say ‘No you’re not allowed to do that,’ and maybe ticket somebody,” Collins suggested.