City invites you to dine and drink ‘al fresco’


By Charles Sercombe
If you are an owner of a restaurant or a bar and have been wishing to create a sidewalk café next to your business, you’re in luck.
Recently, the city council agreed to loosen the rules for establishing a sidewalk dining/drinking area.
It’s a move many cities are taking nationwide in an effort to encourage social distancing.
The city’s action will also allow businesses to expand dining areas into city parking lots and alleys.
But if you want to serve drinks, you will have to go through a state licensing procedure.
In a note to the city council, City Manager Kathy Angerer said permitting expanded dining areas outside will help businesses to make money.
“This change would not only allow business owners to offset losses in revenue due to COVID-19 over the past several months, but would also put on display the vibrancy and dynamism of our small business community,” Angerer said.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in a May COVID-19 update, also recommended expanding outdoor dining – or as the Italians call dining outside, “al fresco.”
“… the data shows that it’s safer than indoor seating (to be outside), and we should take full advantage of spring-time weather — and that is what we are hoping to do here,” she said a month ago when it was still spring.
This expansion of sidewalk cafes is being considered a “pilot program,” and it will expire on Oct. 31.
The council may later decide to continue the program permanently.
Businesses that want to jump on board have to get a $25 permit through the city clerk’s office.
A number of cities have gone one step further by blocking off commercial districts from traffic to allow seating in the streets. Ann Arbor has taken that step.
Hamtramck and sidewalk cafes have had a tortured history. It used to be illegal to allow outdoor seating, but a push back began in the 1990s.
City hall officials eventually relented and allowed the expansion.
So far only a few establishments offer outdoor seating. Polonia and Polish Village Café are two of which have been offering outdoor dining.
Also, Maine Street Restaurant had already created an outdoor area a few years ago.
Posted July 3, 2020

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