Raleigh Restauranteur Pushes Local Government to Regulate Sidewalk Seating

Of course, the proposed change only affects his competition...


Greg Hatem, owner of Empire Properties
Independent We Stand / Flickr

Outdoor seating may soon be a thing of the past for some Raleigh watering holes.

Currently, bars and restaurants in North Carolina's capital city can apply for a permit for outdoor seating, but as The News & Observer reports, a proposed ordinance would change what types of businesses qualify:

If the council approves the new rules later this month, bars such as Paddy O'Beers could lose their sidewalk seating permits as soon as July 1. Establishments that make at least 30 percent of their money by selling food, however, would be allowed to keep their tables on public property.

Supporters of the proposal say some residents have complained about the sidewalk seating. They also cite concerns over liability and pedestrian access.

Representatives for several downtown businesses met Monday to discuss the proposal. Dan Lovenheim, who owns several Raleigh bars, polled the attendees of the meeting, according to The N&O:

Its only vocal supporter was a representative of Empire Properties. Empire's flagship, The Raleigh Times restaurant and bar, regularly puts large crowds on the sidewalk of Hargett Street.

So why is a prominent restaurant owner supporting a law that would limit outdoor seating? According to the story, The Raleigh Times "likely sells enough food to keep its seating permits," while some of its competitors do not.

While Assistant City Manager Marchell Adams David said Empire was not involved in bringing the proposal, it's not surprising Empire supports the change—Empire's owner, Greg Hatem, is no stranger to wielding the club of local politics against competition.

In January, Hatem used his clout to push the city council to delay issuing any new "amplified outdoor entertainment permits," which allow bars to play music with their doors or windows open. He backed up his request with a claim that the area was becoming "unlivable" due to the late-night din emanating from the downtown bar scene.

But some local business owners could read between the lines. "He's saying, 'I've got mine. I don't want anybody else to have theirs,'" Van Alston, another downtown bar owner, told IndyWeek.

Lawmakers (or in this case, a particularly well-situated business owner) frequently cite "safety" or "public good" when advocating restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol (or other regulations), but as Kevin Kosar of The R Street Foundation Institute points out, "Myriad regulations bear no relationship to the public good, limit consumer choice and profit the politically well-connected at a cost to the public."

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  1. Outdoor seating is ridiculous anyway, what with the car exhaust, panhandlers, and bird shit.

    1. Sidewalk seating sucks, yeah. Rooftop patios are cool.

  2. “He’s saying, ‘I’ve got mine. I don’t want anybody else to have theirs,'”

    Man after Warren Buffett’s own heart.

    1. Streetwalk Empire.

    2. “Government” is just the things we do to screw each other.

  3. “some residents have complained”

    Heckler’s Veto, used to justify everything from barring food trucks to the 10-year crusade against Janet Jackson’s nipple, which was coincidentally mentioned in Nick’s interview with Larry King, as a reason not to support Net Neutrality.

    1. Sorry, but no anonymous complaint of any kind should ever be acted on.

      If someone is asking for government action of any kind, their name should be public. Simple as that.

      1. Sure, it’s good to know who is advocating gov’t to use force against others on their behalf. Folks like Tony advocate the gov’t commit all kinds of theft and violence against others, while he stays anonymous and doesn’t have to sacrifice his savings, and also avoids getting the shit kicked out of himself for trying to rob someone.

      2. You have a right to face your accuser, after all.

  4. The Raleigh Times bar is named after a defunct newspaper (whose old building the bar uses)

    Let’s hope its suppress-the-competition business model becomes similarly defunct.

  5. Greg Hatem

    Holy shit if that’s not a perfect Rand villain name.

  6. She is not a moderate. She is an amoral crap weasel that will say and do anything to continue to suckle on the body public. then check all report news this way….

  7. C.R.,

    You kinda look like Jay Cutler.

    That is all,


    1. CPA. You’re ugly like Butterbean, and think you’re so mean, yet you couldn’t kick a fly’s ass even if it was glued to a screen.

      If you try to run, I’ll knock you out in one, if you’re feeling blue, I’ll let you go to two, and if you want to run free I’ll catch you in three, and if you talk trash galore, I’ll make sure to torture you till your jaw hits the floor in four.

  8. Controversy like this is a consequence of privately-owned lots’ extending a distance into an area that the owner is responsible for maintaining as a public right of way & is under political control.

  9. It’s hard to believe that anyone who has read the Raleigh News & Observer article cited here and is minimally interested in getting the facts straight could have written this post. The city is not proposing to enact a new ordinance; it is proposing to issue new regulations to enforce the one it already has, which allows outside seating for restaurants, not bars. The article clearly said that the city hopes to base its regulations on the city of Austin, which has a lively nightlife and lots of bars that make money. Cities have the responsibility to enact and enforce laws that ensure that everyone’s rights are respected. Even the broadest reasonable assertion of personal freedom would not allow someone to build a business on the assumption that he can take over the public sidewalk, create noise until 3:00 am, and unleash drunks on the streets. I believe in free enterprise and the right of individuals to drink until they puke, but they don’t have the right to take over public space to do it. You’ve simply taken the bar owners at their word and assumed that the restaurant owners are defending their own interests. But isn’t that just what the bar owners are doing? It is unfortunate that they have built their businesses on the ability to use public space and that the city has allowed that to happen. But something has to be done about this. And by the way, the word is “restaurateur,” not “restauranteur.”

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