Outdoor dining could become permanent in Dewey

COVID-era policy set to expire Oct. 31; new Grotto Pizza plans on Aug. 19 commissioners agenda
August 12, 2022

Dewey Beach commissioners are set to possibly vote on a slew of conditional-use permit applications at their monthly meeting Aug. 19, which, if passed, would allow outdoor dining to become permanent at these restaurants.

In May 2020, commissioners voted to temporarily allow businesses to expand outdoor seating areas with town manager approval, expediting an otherwise lengthy process that requires multiple public hearings. 

The action was taken to support establishments that were then operating under state-mandated reduced occupancy levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were suffering financially from serving just half their usual clientele.

In March, commissioners said both restaurant owners and patrons benefitted from outdoor dining, which they said was one of the few positives to emerge from the pandemic. At the time, the expansion of temporary premises was set to expire March 31, but commissioners voted to impose a moratorium on the expiration of temporary expansion of premises for establishments until Oct. 31.

Public hearings will be held on ordinances to expand the conditional uses for Starboard Raw, The Starboard, Lighthouse Cove Restaurant and Event Center, Woody’s Dewey Beach, Dewey Beach Country Club, Jimmy’s Grille, Dewey Beer Company, Mama Maria, and The Dewey Post, located at 1205 Coastal Highway and formerly operated as MezCali.

Replacement Grotto’s planned

Commissioners will also hold a public hearing and possible vote on an ordinance regarding a conditional-use permit and an application for a restaurant permit of compliance to construct and operate a new Grotto Pizza restaurant at 1509 Coastal Highway.

The location, just across Read Avenue from the current Grotto, was most recently a law office. Grotto plans to demolish the office, which is in the Resort Business 2 zoning district, and build a new restaurant, said Assistant Town Manager Jim Dedes.

Current plans call for a 126-seat dining area comprising 2,147 square feet of patron space and a 17-seat bar comprising 183 square feet. 

In January, commissioners voted to abolish the requirement to provide off-street parking for restaurants in the RB-2 district with under 4,000 square feet of patron space, so Grotto would no longer need to provide parking in the lot at 106 Read Ave., which is behind the proposed new location.  

In conjunction, commissioners may possibly vote to refer to the planning commission an application to rezone the property at 106 Read Ave. from RB-2 to Resort Residential and to amend the comprehensive plan map accordingly. 

Attorney Stephen Spence submitted the zoning change application on behalf of property owners Jeffery and Lily Gosnear, who purchased 106 Read Ave. from Grotto Pizza Dewey LLC in 2022.

In the application, Spence stated that if plans to construct the new Grotto are approved, the existing restaurant property will be developed for other uses, and the Gosnears would expect to build a single-family home on the 106 Read Ave. property because it is not large enough for any other use.

The meeting is set for 3 p.m., Friday, Aug. 19, at the Lifesaving Station, 1 Dagsworthy Ave. The full agenda, meeting materials and link to the virtual meeting are available at


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