Creating a Café Culture

Café culture has spread from Europe to countries around the world. With its emphasis on eating and socializing, it appeals to a broad segment of people. Café culture contributes to a diverse and vital downtown area that attracts visitors and enhances the economy.

Realizing the desirability of encouraging a café culture, the city of Chapel Hill in North Carolina passed an ordinance last fall permitting the sale of alcoholic beverages to diners sitting at sidewalk tables. Some restaurants reported a 90 percent increase in people dining outdoors the weekend after the ordinance was implemented.

A hostess at Top of the Hill says that there is usually a waiting list for seats outside the restaurant, even when seats are available inside. The manager of the Weathervane Café reports that there are plans to move more tables outside to accommodate the increasing demand for sidewalk seating. He says “people will sit at the bar and wait until a table opens up outside, even when they can sit down inside.” The Sicilian born manager says “Italian food just tastes better outside.”

Pantana Bob’s restaurant, reports that its outdoor seating area always seems packed even on slow nights. A manager says that people will sit outside even if it’s cold. Many restaurants now have outdoor heaters for colder weather and most have outdoor umbrellas or awnings for warmer weather.

Less than a year after the ordinance, Chapel Hill now has a thriving café culture that’s attracting people downtown and contributing to its economic health and vitality. An additional advantage of outdoor dining is that more “eyes on the street “ contribute to a safer environment.

All of this success comes at no cost to the taxpayers.


  • Carl, Jonathan. Al fresco dining a summer treat in Chapel Hill. Southern Neighbor, 2005 (July), 4(7), 7.

See Also

Filed Under: Alcohol Economics