Roswell stops the music at downtown restaurant; eyes sidewalk tables

Outdoor dining in downtown Roswell changed Monday night as City Council voted to stop outdoor musical performances at one restaurant and said it would clamp down on sidewalk tables at others.

Restaurant Canton St. Social has showcased live music on its patio behind the restaurant since it opened in August. But City Council members said it might disturb patrons at nearby businesses.

Council members Mike Palermo, Marcelo Zapata, Matthew Tyser and Mayor Lori Henry voted to pull the plug. Others expressed concern.

“Helping these businesses out in any way we can is necessary this evening,” Councilman Matt Judy said. “It’s very important. Otherwise you might not have anyone walking downtown."

Canton St. Social co-owner Meredith Longwith was more blunt.

“Literally, if we can’t do live music at all, I don’t see how we can stay in business,” she said.

At the meeting, the owners of Canton St. Social, Rock n Taco and Lola’s Burger and Tequila Bar also made their case for sidewalk dining in front of their establishments. Rock n Taco was approved for a sidewalk license and must leave eight feet of open space from the curb to the tables.

Council members had considered a greater amount of open space that would’ve left the restaurant with a narrow path for tables. Lola’s was approved pending a letter from adjacent restaurant, Roux on Canton, regarding a pathway between the two businesses.

But city officials said they’re concerned overall about the amount of space for passersby of restaurants with outdoor seating.

“Sidewalk dining is a privilege, not a right," Councilman Zapata said.

Restaurants with sidewalk licenses must maintain at least five feet of open space from the curb to satisfy American with Disabilities Act guidelines. Yet that doesn’t appear to be the case for some Canton Street restaurants, council members said.

Palermo said pedestrians sometimes must walk in the street when walking in front of some restaurants due to dining tables crowding the sidewalk.

All space outside of the restaurant buildings are in the public right-of-way, Mayor Henry said. “Space granted for sidewalk dining is granted on a case-by-case basis," she added. "And it can be taken away on a case-by-case basis.”

Canton St. Social received sidewalk licenses for both the front and rear of the eatery and live music is allowed inside. But Longwith said the kitchen takes up half of the 1,500 square-foot space and patrons are drawn to the outdoor music.

“They will come when they see people outside,” Longwith said. “Really that patio, everyone wants to sit out there. They don’t want to sit inside to listen to live music. That’s why they come."