State now requiring restaurant owners to get permits for outdoor tents in the winter months
Restaurant owners who have relied on tents for outdoor seating areas during the pandemic are now facing a new rule – they must get permits for the tents, which will also have to be ready to take on snow.
Rasheed Simmons who owns Simply Southern in Belmar says that his tent is a major reason that he has been able to stay open for business the past eight months.
“This structure has been a lifesaver and lifeline to not only my business but my employees,” he says.
Simmons says that his tents have withstood severe weather five times already, including through hurricane-force winds.
“It’s designed so any water will slide down the tent. It has metal piping. It’s anchored to the concrete,” he says. “It there was any snow, we keep a 12-foot ladder. We’d kicked any snow off of it…It’s rated for 50 mph winds.”
But Simmons has since received a letter from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, stating, “…due to winter weather conditions, a UCC PERMIT from the local construction office is required to maintain tents in use past November 30th."
To help, the letter notes, “…in the interest of good business, municipalities are encouraged to waive permit fees for tents to remain in use past November 30th."
Simmons says that this is difficult because he and other restaurant owners will now have to pay for an architect and engineer to write up a plan for a tent that has already been in use for months.
“I understand it’s about safety, but it’s very difficult,” Simmons says.
Simmons says that he is hoping for some guarantee that if he spends the money, he could keep the tent through 2021. So far the township says that once indoor dining is back in full, they want the parking lot back and the tent gone.
While the state is suggesting municipalities not collect permit fees, it is not clear if they will or won't do so.