South Side restaurant fights for sidewalk dining
Penny Folino thought she had done everything by the book when she installed a fence to section off the sidewalk seating at her South Side restaurant.
But now the barrier at Folino's Ristorante is the center of a controversy over sidewalk encroachments.
Just before Election Day, Bruce Kraus, a candidate for City Council, visited a council meeting to speak out against the fence.
Now Councilman-Elect for District 3, Kraus attended yesterday's public hearing on the matter, arguing that the fence is a permanent structure and therefore in violation of city code, which requires that sidewalk cafes have removable barriers.
Councilman Jeff Koch, whom Kraus will replace in January, argues that a fence like Folino's actually helps businesses stick to code, which also requires that five feet of sidewalk is left open for pedestrian traffic. Ropes or cones can be easily moved to "steal an extra two feet of the sidewalk," he said. Folino's fence leaves seven feet of sidewalk space.
The fenced-in area -- which has been removed for the winter -- was popular with customers, who said it reminded them of cafes in New York City or Chicago, Folino said. And it attracted an upscale crowd, she added.
"I bring in clients that are dream clients," she said. "I don't let the drunks sit out there and drink all night."
But Kraus disagrees. He says structures like the Folino's fence bring the bar scene outside into the public space.
Kraus said he wants to change the perception that East Carson Street is just a place where people go to drink.
Folino said her restaurant has been singled out, and pointed to the permanent railing in front of Carson City Saloon three blocks down.
At yesterday's hearing, Kraus characterized Folino's fence as an anomaly, saying the saloon's railing is part of a handicapped ramp constructed when the building was a bank.
South Side resident Wanda Jankoski testified that Folino's fence was an obstruction that has forced wheelchair users and dog walkers onto the street.
Jeff Edwards, whose wife owns the nearby Chocolate Celebrations store, said Folino's "stuck their chin out there" to try something good for the neighborhood.
Sidewalk seating is just one piece of the puzzle and business owners should work together to beautify their blocks, Edwards said.
The council made no decision at yesterday's hearing. After discovering that the city's Public Works department and Historic Review Commission had differing definitions of a permanent structure, council president Doug Shields said the need for a public hearing about a fence represents a "failure in the system."
"A business owner needs to know what the heck the landscape is," he said.
Kraus said he expected the city's legal department would review the matter to create a more precise definition of permanence.
It might be chilly now, but you'll want to keep these eateries in mind when warm weather rolls around again:
• Girasole, Shadyside: Modern Italian cuisine that changes with the seasons, served in a romantic setting.
• Murray Avenue Grill, Squirrel Hill: A closely clustered group of tables puts diners in the middle of the Squirrel Hill scene.
• Silky's Pub, Bloomfield: Enjoy a pint and a Philly cheesesteak at a welcoming neighborhood favorite.
• Crazy Mocha, various locations: Many of the local chain's stores have sidewalk tables where you can sip lattes and use their complementary wireless Internet on your laptop.
• Double Wide Grill, South Side: Redneck chic meets good eats on a large outdoor patio decorated with authentic Americana.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- LaBar: Best next opponent for Brock Lesnar
- At least one dead in Beaver County fire
- Pirates rout Cardinals to keep things interesting in NL Central
- Rossi: Baseball needs a new schedule
- Munhall councilman who assaulted colleague won’t be charged
- South Allegheny begins year with upgrades, contract uncertainty
- Penn State Greater Allegheny welcomes return of bus route to campus
- Armstrong River Hawks make their debut
- Ford City Express may be back on track by Christmas
- Steelers remain confident in defense
- ‘Stand Down’ aims to lift up needy in Armstrong, Clarion counties