The Falmouth Town Council unanimously approved changes to the outdoor dining permitting process this week that are designed to make it easier for restaurants in town to offer outside table service.

Bueno Loco in Falmouth still has outdoor seating available. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

Restaurant owners who wanted make permanent the outside service they set up because of the pandemic have complained about a complicated permitting process and the costs associated with it.

JP’s Bistro owner John Gagnon, who received his permanent permit this fall, said he hopes the changes make it simpler for other restaurants to move forward with “less hoops to jump through.”

The outside pandemic seating was allowed under an emergency order that expired Dec. 12.

Previously, restaurants in four zoning districts all on the southwest and west part of town had to obtain approval from both the Planning Board and the Board of Zoning Appeals. Restaurants in other areas of Falmouth needed approval only from one of those boards.

Among the changes the council approved Tuesday is the elimination of the Board of Zoning Appeals approval.

A memo from the Community Development Committee said, ” … this extra procedural step of requiring Board of Zoning approval … was unnecessary, as these zoning districts are already commercial/mixed-use districts that allow for a wide range of other permitted non-residential uses with no BZA approval required.”

The changes also removes the definition of “outdoor eating areas,” meaning permits for outside tables will be treated the same way as those indoors. The definition of “restaurant” was changed to clarify that all types of restaurants can have both indoor and outdoor eating areas.

JP’s Bistro on Route 1, next to Walmart, was approved for permanent outdoor dining in October.

“It was quite a bit of effort. Being an owner/operator, I had to hire someone to do all the legwork for me. I had to do a site analysis, which was a lot more information needed for something that’s very simple,” Gagnon said. “I came to Falmouth because it is easier than Portland to deal with. Under the circumstances I have to give (the town) credit, this was uncharted waters.”

JP’s took down its outdoor dining setup in November due to the weather, but Gagnon hopes to have outdoor dining back up and running by March or April.

Bueno Loco owner Gregin Doxsee told The Forecaster in October that the process to be approved for outdoor dining was “cumbersome and clunky” and that it could be more streamlined. Bueno Loco still has two tables and a heater set up for outdoor dining; Doxsee could not be reached for comment before The Forecaster’s deadline.

The Moose Sports Pub on Gray Road is the only restaurant in one of the previously regulated zoning districts that had been approved for outdoor dining, according to Council Chairperson Amy Kuhn. However, the patio is not currently set up and a manager could not be reached for comment.

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