That no longer sounds like wishful thinking, thanks to the Lawrence City Commission. It could actually happen at The Sandbar soon.

For some time now, the current commission has considered easing the restrictions on sidewalk dining areas downtown. Last January, they loosened up the food sales percentage requirement that restaurants previously had to have in order to be given permission for sidewalk dining, and now they've gone a few steps further.

At Tuesday's meeting, the commission voted 4-1 to allow downtown bars who can show that they have no other option for outdoor seating, they can apply for a sidewalk dining area. A place that has a back deck or patio, for example, is prevented from also having a sidewalk dining area- but places like The Sandbar where no outdoor option exists, have finally caught a break.

Of course there will be rules, and there should be. Nobody wants to see downtown turn into a wild party scene with drunken people spilling out of the bars, bottles in hand, and raising a ruckus. On the other hand, having a specific fenced off area outside will actually help clean up the appearance of downtown at night, in my opinion, by coralling the smokers into a contained area rather than allowing them to wander and loiter.

Only about six bars downtown could potentially qualify for a sidewalk seating area. We're grateful to have this opportunity.

Read about this issue in the Lawrence Journal-World here. The University Daily Kansan also profiled this topic here