Metro Louisville

Louisville Metro Council approved a slate of ordinances Thursday night that included extending the city’s expanded outdoor dining ordinance and requiring more training for public safety workers on the link between animal abuse and domestic violence.

Bars and restaurants that expanded outdoor dining areas onto parking lots and sidewalks during the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to keep them for another year, under an ordinance approved by Metro Council Thursday night.

The council had previously granted temporary permission in May 2020 for businesses to set up these kinds of outdoor dining spaces, with some restrictions. The measure was meant to give flexibility to businesses while state restrictions limited the number of indoor patrons. With the pandemic still ongoing, Metro Council approved an extension back in June.

The ordinance approved unanimously on Thursday again extends flexible outdoor dining, this time through the end of 2022. District 24 Council Member Madonna Flood, a Democrat, sponsored the ordinance. She told WFPL News earlier this month residents and business owners like the outdoor seating.

“Even though it was brought about at a lot of restaurants because of COVID, people are actually enjoying it,” Flood said. “It’s something we need to look at to make our city more attractive.”

Bars and restaurants in Louisville are required to have a certain number of parking spaces, depending on the area’s zoning and the size of the business. The ordinance allows them to use up to half of the required spaces for outdoor dining.

Businesses still have to maintain accessibility for people with disabilities and get approval from city departments such as Public Works, Planning and Design and Codes and Regulations.

Not every business that could benefit from the flexible outdoor dining ordinance has taken advantage of it. Emily Liu, who heads Louisville’s Planning and Design Department, said some bars and restaurants told the city that they aren’t willing to make the investment in outdoor seating while the measure remains temporary.

With the ordinance now extended through the end of next year, Liu said her department will host meetings to gather public feedback on whether to make the changes permanent. She said they’ll have to answer some key questions: Where in the city should expanded outdoor dining be allowed? Should they be able to have outdoor alcohol consumption? And what should the hours of operations be?

“We want to hear not just from the restaurant owner but also the citizens, especially those that may be in close proximity to these restaurants to see if any restrictions need to be in place to protect them,” she said.

Domestic violence and animal abuse sometimes linked

Metro Council voted unanimously to require police and animal services officers to work together more closely in an effort to better identify cases of domestic violence, child abuse and animal cruelty.

Under the ordinance, Metro Animal Services officers investigating alleged animal abuse will now have to determine if there is also “a reasonable suspicion of interpersonal violence” within the home. The animal services officer must then notify the Louisville Metro Police Department and Child Protective Services if they suspect domestic violence, or if further investigation is needed.

District 7 Democratic Council Member Paula McCraney and District 18 Council Member Marilyn Parker, a Republican, co-sponsored the ordinance.

At Thursday’s meeting, Parker said she was previously surprised to learn that Louisville and many other Kentucky cities didn’t already have this type of measure in place.

“I’m happy now that Louisville is going to have this tool to predict and combat episodes of future violence from occurring in families and with children,” she said.

In addition to the reporting requirements, the ordinance includes a new program for removing an animal from a dangerous situation and higher penalties for people that commit animal abuse.

The measure makes it a civil offense to commit the crime of abusing an animal in the presence of a minor. That would be punishable by a fine of up to $500 in addition to any criminal penalty.

In Jefferson County, people convicted of animal abuse must also pay a $100 yearly fee to be on an animal abuse offender registry.

Metro Animal Services will be required to board pets free of charge when a victim of domestic violence is seeking safe housing. Victims will have up to 90 days to reclaim the animals, after which time unclaimed animals could be put up for adoption.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL.