Sun, May 06, 2012 - Page 2 News List

DPP city councilor slams illegal sidewalk venues

MUDDLE-HEADED:Despite regulations on operational hours and the size of the space to be left for pedestrians, businesses that fail to obtain permits cannot be fined

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

As the number of sidewalk cafes and restaurants in Taipei City continues to increase, a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilor yesterday urged the Taipei City Government to enforce sidewalk seating area regulations to protect pedestrians’ right-of-way.

Although many restaurants and cafes in Taipei extended their area of operation onto sidewalks and pedestrian areas, most are operating illegally, DPP Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) said, as she criticized the city government for ignoring the situation.

Hsu cited information from Taipei City’s New Construction Office that indicates only 15 businesses in the city have secured the necessary permits to offer sidewalk seating, adding that five of those still violated city regulations on the establishment of outdoor seating areas.

For example, Cashbox KTV’s Ximen branch store does not close its outdoor seating area by midnight as regulations stipulate, whereas LA Cafe in Xinyi District (信義), offers an outdoor seating area using the permit of another business, the information shows.

On the other hand, many well-known restaurants and cafes have not obtained permits for sidewalk seating areas, including the Dazzling Cafe in Xinyi District.

“The situation is particularly serious in Xinyi District, because a great deal of public space is occupied by restaurants. Sidewalk cafes or restaurants may bring more vitality to the city, but they also seriously impact the right-of-way of pedestrians,” Hsu said.

City regulations on the establishment of sidewalk seating areas state that businesses must apply to the office for a permit, she added.

In addition, such areas are only allowed to open from 7am to 12am and are required to have a 2.5m-wide space for pedestrian use. Outdoor tables and seats must be removed after operating hours and the operator must be careful not to damage the sidewalk.

However, the regulations do not impose fines on businesses that fail to obtain permits for outdoor operations.

Without proper promotional work many businesses are simply unaware that they need to apply for a permit before offering sidewalk seating areas, Hsu said.

The city government should to improve its management of sidewalk restaurants and offer businesses more assistance on the issue, she said.

Tseng Chun-jie (曾俊傑), a division chief at the office, acknowledged the lack of management of sidewalk cafes and restaurants, but said the manpower to carry out such inspections did not exist.

The office conducts daily patrols to check whether outdoor seating areas damage the sidewalk, but because its primary focus is road maintenance, proper inspections of the violations of rules governing the operational hours of sidewalk establishments or the illegal extension of outdoor seating areas required more manpower, he said.

Tseng said the office proposed a cross-departmental meeting to address the issue and was seeking the assistance of the police.

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