Accessible Outdoor Dining regulations- City of Chicago

Presented by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its website in conjunction with the Hyde Park Disabilities Task Force. Thank You to the Hyde Park Older Women's League Committee on a Senior Friendly Community and the Mayor's Pedestrian Access Committee and Mayor's Office for Persons with Disabilities member Marcia Triwinski.

Source: City of Chicago, contact Code References are in the text. Find the code in the city website, go to MOPD, as not all the reference footnotes copy.
Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection: If you wish to file a complaint regarding a non-compliant sidewalk cafe,You can do that by calling their hotline at 312-747-5185 or by calling 311.

Return to Persons with Disabilities and Disabilities Task Force homepage. Visit the Hyde Park Businesses Disabilities Packet.





During the spring and summer months many Chicago restaurants receive permission to set up outdoor cafes on sidewalks adjacent to their businesses. These sidewalk cafés provide outdoor dining opportunities for Chicago’s residents and visitors matched by few cities in the nation. The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, in coordination with the Department of Business Affairs and Licensing, has put together this guide to help sidewalk café operators comply with the Chicago Building Code accessibility requirements applicable to sidewalk dining areas.

[The Guide is not a comprehensive guide for restaurant accessibility, and does not address applicable state and federal requirements for which restaurant owners are also responsible.]

Public Right of Way

Sidewalk Cafés must be set up in a manner that does not interfere with the accessibility and usability of the public right of way on the sidewalk.

• Sidewalk café fences or barricades must be positioned so that at least 6 feet separates the outer edge of the barrier from street signs, planters, newspaper dispensers, fire hydrants, bus shelters or other obstacles or where no obstacles are present, the edge of the sidewalk (not including the curb) unless otherwise approved by the Department of Business Affairs. Department of Business Affairs, Sidewalk Café Rules of Operation.

• Sidewalk cafes must be constructed so that they are free of objects between 27 and 80 inches above the ground that protrude more than 4 inches from the outer edge of the fence or barricade unless a corresponding barrier is positioned under the protruding object 27 inches above the ground or lower to provide cane detection. Examples of potential non-compliant protruding objects are hanging lanterns, signs or other objects mounted on or alongside the café fences or barricades. CBC § 18-11-1104.6.

• Sidewalk café boundary markers or fences must be constructed so that they provide cane detection for pedestrians who are blind or have visual impairments. A continuous uninterrupted fence or barricade meets this requirement if it has a continuous, firm barrier at 27 inches above ground or lower. If the fence or barricade is not continuous or if the barricade consists of posts or other objects connected by hanging ropes, chains or nylon strips, a detectable barrier must run continuously along the pedestrian side of the barricade or fence at a height of 27 inches or less. CBC § 18-11-1104.6.

Sidewalk Café Seating

The seating area of outdoor dining spaces must be accessible, meaning that the floor surface is stable, firm and slip-resistant, and that tables or counters are located along an accessible route (see below). Where tables are provided at sidewalk cafes, seating for people with disabilities must be provided as well.

• At least 5% but not less than one of the tables in the sidewalk café seating area must be accessible to people with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs. Accessible tables must be dispersed throughout the café seating area. CBC § 18-11-1108.2.8.

Accessible tables have the following characteristics:

o Table top surfaces from 28 to 34 inches above the floor. ANSI § 902.3.

o Clear floor space at the table that is at least 30 inches wide and 48 inches deep. Where possible this seating should be located where the sidewalk has a slope that is no greater than 1:50. ANSI §§ 305.2, 902.2.

o Knee clearance underneath the table 27 inches in height to a depth of at least 8 inches and toe clearance at least 9 inches in height to a depth of at least 11 inches. ANSI § 306.

o Accessible seating at sidewalk cafes must be located on an accessible route (see below).

• Under no circumstances should seating in sidewalk dining areas consist only of “high” or “bar stool” height tables and chairs. Where high tables and chairs are used, accessible tables outfitted with chairs of corresponding height must be provided as well.

Accessible Routes

An accessible route must connect the sidewalk café table seating with the restaurant, the restaurant entrance and any restrooms and public telephones. In other words, patrons with disabilities should be able to travel to and enter the sidewalk café seating area and proceed to the accessible sidewalk café tables. Patrons with disabilities should also be able to travel from accessible sidewalk café seating to the restaurant entrance.

Among the attributes of an accessible route:

• It is at least 36 inches wide at all points, except doorways (measured when patrons are seated). ANSI § 403.5

• Where it goes through doorways, a clear opening width of at least 32 inches (measured from the door surface to the doorframe when the door is open 90 degrees) is provided. ANSI § 404.2.2.

• Its thresholds are ½ inch or less and beveled with a slope no greater than 1:2. ANSI §§ 303.3, 404.2.4.

• It has a ground or floor surface that is stable, firm and slip-resistant (no dirt paths, loose gravel or grass). ANSI § 302.1.

• The floor surface has a slope no greater than 1:20 in the direction of the accessible route and a cross slope no greater than 1:50. ANSI § 403.3.

• Where it changes level, appropriate slopes (1:20 or less) or curb ramps, ramps, elevators or platform lifts are used to provide access. ANSI § 303.

• It is free of objects that protrude more than 4 inches into the circulation path at a height from 27 to 80 inches. CBC § 18-11-1104.6.1.

Policies, Practices and Procedures for Management and Staff

Restaurants must implement policies, practices and procedures to ensure that people with disabilities have access to accessible seating in sidewalk seating areas. Some basic policies that should be considered:

• Before opening each day and at other times during the course of the operating hours of the sidewalk café, make sure that tables and chairs have not shifted in a way that intrudes on the accessible route.

• Train all staff as to the location of the accessible seating areas. Make sure that they give individuals with disabilities the choice of waiting for such a table or proceeding to another table if that is available.

• Reserve accessible tables and chairs for use by individuals with disabilities until all other tables have been occupied. This will maximize the opportunity for people with disabilities to use these accessible features without unnecessary delays. If a person with a disability chooses to sit at a table that is not configured to be accessible you must allow that person to do so.

• If a platform lift is utilized to provide an accessible route to an outdoor dining area:

o The lift must be left on and unlocked at all times so that it can be operated independently by patrons with disabilities.

o The lifts should receive scheduled maintenance. It is the responsibility of the restaurant to take steps to ensure that it is operable and that any outages in service are minimized.

o Staff should test the lift at the beginning of each day and be instructed to contact a repair service immediately if the lift is not working.

o Staff should be trained on use of the manual back-up system of the lift to ensure that individuals with disabilities will be able to exit in the event of a mechanical breakdown or power outage.