Outdoor seating big topic at City Council

By Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan City Council heard 35 (37) residents in letter form read by City Clerk Peri Gallucci during the Administrative Report on the Private Use of Public Space (Streateries).

According to Councilman John Olson, 24 of the written comments received were in favor of the streateries while another 11 opposed them. Those opposing the public outdoor installations didn’t like the fact that downtown public parking was being used. They also were concerned about snow removal in the winter and the unfairness to other businesses on Woodin Avenue.

Many of those in favor of the Streateries cited the European feel, the welcoming feel and the options of not having to eat inside a restaurant during the current pandemic. Those in favor of keeping them stated that there was plenty of nearby parking for downtown shoppers.

One of the bigger complaints was the additional garbage created by outdoor dining and the feeling that each restaurant needs to be better at policing their outdoor spaces. Pam Ahl, a Chelan resident, wrote that she was disappointed in the lack of standards for cleanliness and said it gets towards disgusting.

Garth Donald, Stormy Mountain Brewery said he was in favor of continuing his operation on the current model. “We’ve had nothing but a positive response to these,” stated Donald. “I applaud the City for taking a proactive step.”

Layla’s owner, Daniel ?, said he was lucky to be one of the restaurants chosen to participate in the pilot project. “It improved our guest flow and operation. It was an innovative way around COVID,” he said. He polled all of his guests and said, “I didn’t have one negative response.”

Layla’s shut down in March and then opened to 25 percent capacity when Chelan moved to a 1.5 phase which he stated they were still not able to operate profitably. The six weeks outdoor seating was available, he stated that the results were amazing.

After Gallucci read the comments into the record, City Administrator Wade Ferris opened the issue up for discussion amongst Council and staff.

Gifting of public right-of-ways was one issue that concerned City Staff, but City Attorney Quentin Batjar stated that there were some ways the City can get around that issue with a user agreement and maintenance provisions. “Other Cities have done this… Wenatchee, Seattle and Port Townsend.”

Public Works Director Jake Youngren mentioned the issue of snowplowing and street sweeping. “The acute angles make it hard.” However, there was also mention of the participating businesses removing snow from around the structures by hand. “We start snow removal at 4 a.m.,” said Youngren, “so that could be a problem.”

Peter Jamtgaard stated he appreciates the Streateries, but feels the businesses should pay their fair share for eliminating parking space and suggested $720 per month might be an amount to consider. “I support the seasonal thing,” said Jamtgaard.

Mayor Bob Goedde said he recognized that people were afraid to eat out. “I have even enjoyed them,” said Goedde, but he is concerned about what the rest of the community thinks. “I think we need to put out a survey for our residents,” said Goedde.

Erin McCardle stated it was good for Council to get more information and brought up the October 30 deadline to remove the outdoor seating areas stating that logistically that was hard with Halloween being held Saturday night. The Council elected to allow the outdoor seating areas to remain up until November 7. ‘

“This was a pilot program and my takeaway is that the majority of people love them,” said McCardle who feels they Streateries also benefited other businesses in town. “There is a lot we have learned from them,” she stated. “I think we can roll out with a solid improved program in the Spring for streateries.”

Ty Witt said he backs up McCardle’s comments and felt that cold weather usage might be a stretch. As a Physician he also commented that the outdoor facilities help during the pandemic. “COVID is not going away for two, three or four more years,” said Witt. “That’s something we need to be aware of. People just weren’t going to eat indoors… it’s much safe outdoors.”

Tim Hollingsworth asked what is involved with taking them down and storing them in a safe place. Witt replied that they could be removed in two sections and put on a flatbed which would require a forklift and flatbed truck to move them to storage.

Hollingsworth went on to say that he likes them but hasn’t used them. “I’m sensitive to the concerns of other downtown businesses.”

Servando Robledo felt that the pilot program was successful. “My opinion is to make them seasonal.”  John Olson also felt they should be removed for the winter and to come back “with a detailed plan over the winter. I think they have great value.”

New Councilmember Chris Baker said the information was great for him. His concerns are the City’s liability, the fairness to other businesses and the hope they can participate in some way. He was also concerned about ADA issues, but Witt replied that the entrances to the outdoor seating was wider than most ADA accessible areas.

Ferris said they should be removed and reassessed. Batjar mentioned the railings on the sidewalks and asked why restaurants had to take them down. “I can’t think of any legal reason,” he said.

The Council made the decision to allow the restaurants with sidewalk seating areas to leave their railings up over the winter.

In other business:

The Council extended Jenna Rahm’s professional services agreement for Social Media Management. Rahm stated that the City’s Facebook page is beginning to get some traction. “There are 350 followers and a big spike when photos are put up. People like photos,” she said. “Your message is getting out there.

The Council authorized the Mayor to approve the Finance Director’s request to apply for $191,000 for CARES Act Funding. “It’s time to apply for that to request reimbursement for those funds,” said Finance Director Steve Thornton.

Thornton also went over the minor financial changes in the Capital Improvements Plan that will be the subject of the next workshop on Tuesday, October 3.

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