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Are Asheville Restaurants Being Forced to Serve Patio Diners in the Dark?


Has the Asheville restaurant lighting controversy affected you this spring? Whether you’re a restaurant owner or manager or someone who enjoys eating out in the city of Asheville, you have probably been affected. If not, you likely will be soon, one way or another.

There are several points of view one could take with regard to this controversy, which we’ll get to in a moment. For those who own or manage an Asheville restaurant, are the city’s “Outdoor lighting standards” causing your restaurant to lose business? We know of at least one restaurant manager who says potential customers think her restaurant is closed because the patio is dark. Her outdoor dining patrons have to use cell phone light to read the menu.

To those restaurant owners and managers affected by the city’s “Outdoor lighting standards,” please be aware that Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Western North Carolina can help you retain business during this time of uncertainty. We offer several restaurant lighting fixtures and styles that do not violate the city’s “Outdoor lighting standards.”

What’s the Controversy About Asheville Restaurant Lighting?

A city ordinance defining the acceptable “Outdoor lighting standards” was updated in 2012. Evidently it has been enforced recently to an extent that it was not before. An article in the March 28 Citizen Times explains the issues and presents three different viewpoints:

  • A restaurant owner and a restaurant manager;
  • A board member of the Astronomy Club of Asheville, a group that contributed input to the city’s current ordinance;
  • An attorney and Asheville Brewers Alliance board member specializing in alcoholic beverage law, zoning and land use practices.

One issue is outdoor lights visible from the restaurant’s property line. That would probably include most strings of hanging lights known as bistro lighting. The ordinance goes into detail about how bright exterior commercial lighting can be, whether or not the bulbs can be visible and the angles at which the lights can be directed. For example, Asheville commercial outdoor lighting is not allowed to point upward. The reason? To reduce light pollution, light trespass, glare, and unnecessary high light levels and intensity. The proponents of the city’s ordinance say they want to preserve the aesthetics of the night sky.

What’s happening now?

  • Restaurant owners/managers are facing fines of $100 per day if they don’t comply with the ordinance. If they are cited for a violation, the city will back-charge the fine to begin on the date of citation unless the lights are removed or unplugged.
  • The attorney and Asheville Brewers Alliance board member say the city of Asheville has indicated they may rewrite part of the ordinance.
  • Diners are advised to bring their cell phones to dinner.
  • Restaurant owners and managers affected by the ordinance should contact Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Western North Carolina about alternative light fixtures for their outdoor dining areas. We have a large variety of lighting solutions no matter what the outcome of the controversial ordinance. We can help create ambiance at your restaurant while keeping you in compliance with the city’s “Outdoor lighting standards.”

At Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Western North Carolina, we offer creative, custom, commercial outdoor lighting solutions to meet any business’s needs, no matter the local ordinance. Call today to schedule a design consultation. (828) 373-6887