The outdoor seating at the Square Cafe in Regent Square, once in jeopardy, can remain open year-round, borough council members decided during a Monday meeting.
Edgewood Borough members unanimously voted in favor of an amendment to adjust some of the seating to allow sidewalk access, filed by the popular restaurant’s owner Sherree Goldstein. The borough had previously ordered her to close the patio by Oct. 31.
The controversy began when Goldstein received a letter from the borough in September stating that some outdoor tables were too close to the curb, which impeded opening doors from parked cars. The borough also said the restaurant’s tables and chairs were not being stored properly at night and that there wasn’t ample walking space to access a nearby handicapped ramp.
Goldstein was told to close the patio from November to March. Square Cafe, open for 16 years on Braddock Avenue, has always maintained year-round outdoor seating. The outdoor seating area is complemented with heat lamps during colder temperatures. There are 38 seats outside and 64 seats inside. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch.
“On the weekends there is a long wait for a table,” said Goldstein, of Wilkinsburg. “And if we didn’t have the outdoor seating it would be an even longer wait. We do a fair amount of business outside so this would impact our business, our staff. And we are done by 3:15 p.m.”
Goldstein said she moved some of her outdoor tables and chairs, as the borough requested. She contacted borough officials who asked her to file an amendment, which she did. On Monday, council president George Fuller said he learned the borough’s code, in its current form, does not limit the dates of when a restaurant can have outdoor dining.
He said he believes the ordinance needs to be revised.
It’s unclear whether neighboring businesses also filed a complaint about the seating impeding on foot traffic along Braddock Avenue. Fuller declined to elaborate.
The owner of Styles by Cardamone Salon & Day Spa and owners of The Salon, located on either side of the restaurant, declined comment.
Business neighbor Christopher Powell, a chiropractor and owner of Wellness Pittsburgh, said he had no problem with the seating. He said the restaurant, two doors down from his business, brings more people to the neighborhood.
“It adds to the sense of community,” said Powell, who submitted a letter to the borough in support of Goldstein. “I see so many people enjoying eating out there. It is good for everyone on the block. The visibility helps us all. I have had clients say they never would have known we were here if they weren’t sitting outside the Square Cafe.”
The Regent Square neighborhood includes portions of the municipalities of Pittsburgh, Edgewood, Swissvale and Wilkinsburg. The Square Cafe is on the Edgewood side of Braddock Avenue. Across the street is Swissvale.
Fuller said a code enforcement officer cited Square Cafe, but he hoped to find a resolution that appeased the neighborhood.
“If it’s a nice day and people want to sit outside, I am OK with that,” he said. “She is a good business owner and people like her and we would like all the neighbors to get along, but we can’t force people.”
Karen Howard of Regent Square has been a customer since Square Cafe opened. She stops a few times a week.
“They have awesome service and an awesome staff,” Howard said. “I have heard about the complaints. I am committed to this restaurant because it’s in my neighborhood. We have to learn to live with each other in a healthy way.”
Scott Connelly, a Churchill resident, said he believes construction along Braddock Avenue may be adding to frustration with parking in the area.
“We need to learn to co-exist,” he said. “If one of the other businesses were upset, they should have come and talked to her about it. This place is the heart of the neighborhood.”
Justin Pihony of Irwin was dining outside on Friday.
“When you drive by and you see all of the people sitting outside enjoying a meal, it shows that business is thriving,” he said. “And that’s a good thing, a really good thing.”
At Monday’s meeting, several residents spoke positively about the restaurant, saying it is a valuable asset to the community. Borough members said they are going to look into rewriting the outdoor dining ordinance.
“We are all right for now,” said Goldstein. “We are looking forward to working with the borough to rewrite the ordinance so that we can keep everyone happy.”