No appetite for changes to private property dining in Rehoboth

Commissioners will review program in fall; seasonal hirings going better than last year
April 8, 2022

Story Location:
Rehoboth Beach City Hall
229 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

Changes to Rehoboth Beach’s outdoor dining regulations on private property may be coming, but they won’t be made before this summer begins.

People started to think the rules that were suspended the last couple of years were the norm, but they’re not, said Mayor Stan Mills. The city isn’t interested in another summer of freebies, he said.

During a workshop April 4, commissioners decided to hold off on any changes to outdoor dining on private property until the fall review of the public space program. City commissioners approved a policy that includes a number of rules and regulations allowing outdoor dining on public space in March. As part of approving the policy, commissioners agreed to review that program in the fall.

The city does allow restaurants to have 750 square feet of outdoor patio dining on private property.

Commissioner Patrick Gossett said 40 percent of all dining establishments already have some kind of outdoor dining options. The city has been at the forefront of outdoor dining, he said.

Commissioner Tim Bennett asked where the 750-square-foot amount came from.

None of the other commissioners knew specifically, but Gossett said it could have been set up as a percentage of total square feet for a restaurant.

Mills said it could be possible for a restaurant to add outdoor dining on private space, but the restaurant has to have direct access to the space and can’t use the city sidewalk because of state regulations.

Using the Summer House as an example, Mills said there would have to be a door made in the side of the restaurant to access the empty lot to the west.

Even if commissioners look at new regulations, it’s doubtful there will be an increase in the allowed square footage.

The size restrictions have served well in the past, said Mills. That’s why Rehoboth isn’t Dewey Beach or Ocean City, he said.

Mills encouraged any restaurant owners with questions to reach out to the city as soon as possible.

Seasonal staffing levels better than last summer; problems still exist

During her official report, City Manager Sharon Lynn said the city is having more success hiring seasonal staff than it did last year. At this time last year, largely because of unknowns related to COVID mandates, the city, like other employers of seasonal help, was having a lot of trouble filling positions. 

To begin with, Lynn said police have hired 20 of the 26 budgeted cadets.

Police Chief Keith Banks said the department still has a few interviews to conduct. The beach patrol, which now falls under the chief’s purview, will have more than enough lifeguards, said Banks. 

As for other areas, Lynn said the parking department is fully staffed, but the city is still having trouble hiring in the streets department. Two people were hired and then quit, she said.

Lynn said if the streets department can’t find more staff, it’s likely the city’s Boardwalk recycling program will not take place this summer. As of now, the city doesn’t have the staff, she said.

The city has been trying to get the program running for at least the past two summers, but hasn’t been able to because of staffing shortages.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter