Extending dining areas into city streets could continue in Rochester with no added costs to businesses.

The Rochester City Council unanimously approved a new parklet and street cafe policy Monday night.

Here are a few things to know about the policy:

1. Initial cost for a street permit would be free

In August, Molly Patterson-Lungren, the city’s heritage preservation and urban design coordinator, said parking revenue for a single downtown space could be approximately $1,100, but council members said they didn’t anticipate replacing the revenue through fees.

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As a result, city staff didn’t identify a fee for street use, but Deputy City Administrator Cindy Steinhauser said the cost could be revisited in the future.

Similar cafe usage on city sidewalks costs downtown restaurants $250 every three years.

2. There’s a difference between street cafes and parklets

Street cafes are generally used by businesses to extend indoor eating spaces to the outdoors, but the new policy also provides space for public areas, known as parklets.

Unlike street cafes, parklets are open to the public, without the requirement to order food or a beverage from a nearby business.

The spaces are expected to be created by the city or another organization.

3. Street cafes aren’t only for downtown

While recent uses have centered in downtown Rochester, the new policy allows street cafes on any qualified streets where traffic speeds are 30 mph or less.

Eligible locations also must be in commercial or mixed-use zones with unrestricted parking adjacent to the sidewalk.

4. Endless street space won’t be available

Street cafes and parklets will be limited to three parking spaces each.

Additionally, required structures will not be allowed to block bike lanes or other public amenities, and buffer areas will be required for residential property, bus stops and intersections.

Outdoor diners sit on the patio space set up last year at The Tap House on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Outdoor diners sit on the patio space set up last year at The Tap House on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

5. Requirements exist for structures

Street cafes and parklets will be required to be accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act and state guidelines.

A platform will be required to provide a surface flush with the adjacent sidewalk, and a continuous physical barrier will be mandatory along all street edges.

6. Permits won’t be limited to summer months

While most frequent use will likely be from May 1 to Oct. 31, businesses will have the option to extend the use into the winter months.

With city approval, the extension would require the business owner to agree to address snow removal and other maintenance requirements during the extended use.

7. Work continues

With the approval of the new policy, city staff is expected to review city code-related fees for blocking parking meters, as well as the ordinance related to sidewalk cafes, to see what changes might be required to ensure policies don’t contradict each other.

Any changes to the city code would require city council review.