U.S. Attorney’s Office Reminds Communities

U.S. Attorney’s Office Reminds Communities That The Americans With Disabilities Act Applies To Outdoor Dining Areas

DETROIT, MI (STL.News) As part of a COVID-19 pandemic mitigation strategy, many cities and other local municipalities have allowed restaurants to create or expand outdoor dining spaces onto streets, sidewalks, and parking lots. To ensure that such new dining spaces are accessible and do not impair the ability of pedestrians who use wheelchairs to travel around the area, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan announced today that it will be providing the attached Dear Colleague Letter to remind communities and restaurants of their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§12101 et seq.

The Dear Colleague Letter explains that under the ADA, restaurants must ensure that all dining areas (both indoor and outdoor) are accessible.  It is also a reminder to municipalities, who often must approve the use or expansion of outdoor dining, that these areas must not obstruct the accessible path of travel on sidewalks.  Additionally, outdoor dining spaces should not reduce the availability of accessible parking spaces in streets and parking lots.

“We know that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant industry was hit extremely hard and we are glad that cities and townships across Michigan have supported their restaurants by allowing them to creatively utilize and expand their outdoor spaces,” said Saima S. Mohsin, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.  “However, it is important for municipalities and restaurants to comply with the ADA and ensure any outdoor dining spaces are accessible to people with disabilities, and do not diminish the accessibility of surrounding areas, including sidewalks and availability of accessible parking spaces.”