Ocean Shores to delve into covered dining issue

The Ocean Shores City Council this week voted to form an ad hoc committee to discuss the removal of an emergency suspension of city code that has allowed communal outdoor dining areas during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler told The Daily World that she’s not sure when the emergency order would be rescinded because, “we’re sort of waiting on the state for that,” eluding to COVID-19 related restrictions on businesses.

The council discussed sending the question to the planning commission, but other issues were higher on the list of requests from the commission, so an ad hoc committee was formed but no members have been officially designated.

The emergency declaration, adopted in November 2020, allows tents and nonpermanent awnings, canopies and coverings to afford an outdoor dining experience in nonresidential B-1 and B-2 Zoning Districts.

“What about the other businesses that don’t have the space to set up a tent or other structure?” asked Dingler. “There’s a lot of discussion that needs to take place before we can make a decision.”

Councilwoman Lisa Scott said during their meeting earlier this week that she was concerned about the safety of patrons; how tents might perform during high-wind events if the nonpermanent structures were not securely fastened to the ground.

While most businesses in the wind-swept community have little space to use for an outside dining area, The Grill at Oyhut Bay uses three smaller covered structures that are bolted to the concrete — each features a single table and four chairs — and Ocean Pours Taproom on Ocean Shores Boulevard NW uses a larger tent structure.

“If we had a tent-city that might not be what we want,” said Dingler. “On the other hand, there was discussion about allowing the tents on a seasonal basis.”

Dingler said her biggest concern is competition, “The COVID numbers, as they go back down again, it might be difficult for some of our brick and mortar places to compete with the tents.”

The ad hoc committee will seek volunteer-council members, but a list has not been officially designated yet.