Rooftop bars, terrace dining to get a boost

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Rooftop bars, terrace dining to get a boost

All Korean restaurants, cafes and bakeries would be able to sell food and drinks on terraces and rooftops later this year without obtaining government permits, under a proposal from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

The Food and Drug Ministry announced Monday it will introduce a revision to the domestic food safety law that limits the practice to businesses that have received permits from their regional governments.

Under the current law, outdoor food and drinks can only be served after obtaining a permit to do so.

Only 97 of 238 local governments nationwide have created such a permit system through local ordinances. Those systems would become void.

The Food Ministry will receive public comments on the proposed revision through mid-May.

Following a series of administrative reviews, the ministry expects the new law to go into effect within the next two to three months.

“There is the issue of inequality among businesses [under current law] because local governments have different standards when it comes to providing food and drinks outdoors,” the ministry said in a statement. “Another motivation behind the revision is to fulfill the needs of business operators that wanted to apply exotic models from overseas and that of consumers who increasingly look for restaurants and cafes with a distinct atmosphere.”

Each government also has different safety standards for outdoor operations, but the revision would establish a fixed set of rules applied across the country.

Outdoor operations that prompt complaints from neighboring residents, however, will be shut down. Cooking outside will remain banned, and bars and restaurants that have safety or hygiene issues will not be allowed to operate on terraces or rooftops.

The proposed revision would be a step toward a “negative” regulatory framework, in which only specific, problematic cases are halted.

Business advocates often cite Korea’s “positive” regulations, or those that require individual businesses to obtain government permission in advance of an activity, as an obstacle to business innovations.

The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry lauded the Food Ministry’s revision plan, which is in line with reforms advocated by the business group since 2014.

“The news is an immense relief to local businesses. They’re already hit by the new coronavirus in terms of revenue, and a lot of them had reportedly pulled out tables in line with the social campaign to keep distance,” the chamber said in a statement Tuesday. “The changed law will help business owners by allowing them to use more space with the same amount of rent.”

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]
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