The future of street cafes and parklets will be discussed Monday.
The Rochester City Council will be discussing a potential policy outlining when and where patios can extend into the street, for both private business and public uses.
“I think the pandemic and the use of the streets for outdoor seating helped us see what kind of atmosphere we can create if we do more work along these lines,” said Molly Patterson-Lungren, the city’s heritage preservation and urban design coordinator.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city established a temporary program allowing bars and restaurants to extend outdoor seating to meet the operating requirements established by the state. The program was extended through October this year.
The new proposal will ask the city council if it wants to extend the practice and establish more-defined parameters, including requiring patios extended into parking lots to have floors built to the level of sidewalks to provide a smooth transition.
While a fee isn’t provided for Monday’s review, the report to the council suggests establishing a cost for businesses that want to have dedicated patios that will take up parking spaces.
Sidewalk patios come with a permit fee requirement, but Will Forsman, an owner of Cafe Steam, said costs of using parking spaces have been high in the past.
“They are very expensive to rent for even a month,” he said, acknowledging the city needs to recoup some cost of lost parking fees.
At the same time, he said the past two months have shown the downtown benefits from the spaces when businesses can put them in place without burdensome expense.
Raelynn Chase, Potbelly’s general manager, also said the price could determine whether the added outdoor seating would return to the First Avenue Southwest eatery.
“It would depend on what kind of cost we are looking at,” she said.
The city proposal does provide the option to create a public on-street spaces without an added fee, but the site would be required to be public, meaning the sponsoring business or organization would not have exclusive rights to the space.
Holly Masek, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Alliance, said the organization, along with Destination Medical Center has already started adding new seating options downtown, from chairs and tables in Peace Plaza to new benches in the Heart of the City redesign.
She said it’s part of a continued effort to make downtown a greater draw for residents, downtown workers and visiting patients..
“I just think this adds so much for the community,” she said.
The city council will discuss the proposed program during its 6 p.m. meeting Monday in council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE. The in-person meeting will have limited seating due to distancing requirements, but it will also stream online at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.
Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of Aug. 30 include:
• City Council study session, 3:30 p.m. Monday. The meeting will livestream at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.
• City Council, 6 p.m. Monday in city council chambers of the city-county Government Center. The meeting will livestream at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.
• Public Utility Board, 4 p.m. Tuesday. The meeting will be livestreamed at https://www.rpu.org/about-rpu/board-meetings-minutes.php
• Ethical Practices Board, 10 a.m. Wednesday. Dial-in information is available at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas. Video of the meeting will be posted the following day.
• Police Civil Service Commission, 3 p.m. Thursday. Access information for the online meeting is available at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas