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Sunny times for outdoor restaurants: These regulations must be observed!

When the first rays of sunshine come out, many customers want to enjoy the nice weather and grab a sunny spot outdoors. What are the rules and regulations for outdoor catering? Here are a few tips and information.

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Beer gardens, street cafes and terrace are subject to some permits and requirements

In spring and summer, a sunny spot is worth its weight in gold. Horeca establishments with outdoor areas feel the increase in customers when the weather allows them to sit outside. Many patrons make a conscious decision to eat at an establishment when it offers them the opportunity to have their coffee or lunch in the bright sunshine. Before you take your tables and chairs outdoors, however, there are some rules and regulations to consider: In addition to the appealing design of the outdoor area, restaurateurs should think about the location of outdoor catering, as well as observe some safety precautions to make sure your outdoor furniture doesn't cause any trouble.

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Private or public: these regulations apply before starting up outdoor catering

Does your property include a beautiful garden that can accommodate a few guest tables? Or would you like to expand your ice cream parlor by a narrow strip along the pedestrian zone? Depending on whether you already own the land for your planned outdoor gastronomy or whether you want to use public traffic space, you will need permits from various bodies. We'll tell you the differences:

Horeca area on public space

A parking lot in the city center, a piece of the pedestrian walkway or even a part of the street: You must apply to your city administration for the use of the outdoor area in front of your restaurant. Streets, pedestrian zones and other public areas are for general use, but the administration may issue a permit for catering and other special uses. Talk to the appropriate authority; usually this is the Office of Street Construction and Development. If impairments to traffic safety, ease of traffic or physically handicapped people are excluded, permission is usually granted. However, there is no entitlement to receive the special permit.

Our tip

Special permits may not be denied due to the principle of equality. If several restaurateurs already use the sidewalk next to your business, your own application for special use will probably not be denied.

Restaurant use of a private outdoor area

Does your restaurant still have room for a terrace or beer garden in the outdoor area? In the case of private property, you do not have to apply for a special use permit. Nevertheless, register your outdoor gastronomy with the responsible building authority in good time, because a commercial use of the outdoor area requires compliance with various statutes and regulations. In addition, the existing restaurant permit must be extended to include the use of the outdoor area. The authority must also decide on adequate fire protection and individual precautions to protect residents and neighbors. In various cities and municipalities, local bylaws also come into play - in Frankfurt, the so-called "Vorgartensatzung" (front garden bylaws) stipulates that sufficient "garden design" must remain and the area may not be concreted or paved over.

Our tip

Inform yourself at an early stage with the responsible authority, because subsequent conversions of the outdoor area can cost your catering business dearly.

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The Immission Control Act for the catering industry

Not only large industrial groups are affected by the Immission Control Act, but also the catering industry. The federal government specifies in the important environmental protection ordinance that immissions and emissions such as noise, air pollution, vibrations or similar must remain within a certain range. You can read about which sub-areas apply to the catering industry and specifically the use of outdoor areas here.

Soundproofing & Noise Protection

The German Federal Immission Control Act (Bundesimmissionsschutzgesetz) provides a rough framework for noise protection, but it is up to the individual states to determine which limits are complied with. The legal quiet times for outdoor areas of restaurants vary from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. in Bavarian beer gardens to special regulations within individual cities. As a general rule, nighttime rest from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. applies nationwide, during which the noise level from a catering establishment in an urban area may not exceed 45 dB. If your restaurant is located in a commercial area, this maximum value increases to 50 dB. These limits are specified in the TA Lärm, the technical instructions for the avoidance of noise. Out of consideration for neighbors and residents, you should comply with these limits in any case, because a violation will be prosecuted as an administrative offense and can be really expensive.

Our tip

Already think about noise and wind protection when furnishing your beer garden or outdoor area. Large plants in planters or high separation systems dampen the background noise somewhat, so that the conversations of your guests and the sounds of your business do not disturb any residents.

Air pollution control

Restaurants not only emit fragrant odors: the preparation of food often gives rise to odors that can be a nuisance to local residents. The Immission Control Act regulates air pollution control only for pollutants via the TA Luft (Technical Instructions on Air Quality Control). Smoking grills, fryer fumes or open campfires can still disturb residents, tradespeople or passers-by. Take the same care as with the exhaust air from your kitchen: The exhaust air should be discharged via the roof so as not to disturb the neighborhood.

Light emission

LED spotlights for outdoor areas turn night into broad daylight: When planning and selecting your lighting, please note that no federal regulation is yet available on the subject of "light". In the "Light Guideline", the Federal-Länder Working Group (LAI) agreed on a common approach: The LAI guideline values define when neighborhoods or the general public are significantly affected or annoyed. In the LAI Form for Light Immission, you can read what light intensity (in lux) applies to premises in different environments. Glare from lighting systems is also regulated there.

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Environmental protection - avoiding waste

Cleanliness in catering establishments is actually a matter of course. Nevertheless, in outdoor areas of catering establishments, it is important to remember that litter lying around is not advisable. Light napkins, cellophane or other small packages are quickly blown away by the wind, causing unnecessary harm to the environment. Practical table waste garbage cans help keep tables clean. Also, keep in mind that food scraps can attract animals, so you should encourage your service staff to clear the tables quickly.

Our tip

Place enough fireproof ashtrays so that smokers can easily dispose of their ashes and filters. This will save you the hassle of collecting cigarette butts.