PLATTSBURGH — City councilors will decide tonight whether they will allow outdoor dining to continue in downtown Plattsburgh.
Four businesses have applied to use street-side parking spaces in front of their restaurants to install tables and umbrellas for outdoor dining from May 1 to Oct. 1.
Biz News Ink
The Common Council began allowing outdoor dining in 2006 when Irises Cafe installed seats outside its City Hall Place restaurant. The Pepper, a Mexican-style restaurant across the street from Irises, began outdoor dining three years ago, and the Champlain Wine Company started the practice last year just south of Irises.
Olive Ridley’s on Court Street began setting up seasonal seating outside in 2010.
The practice has always been questioned by Councilor George Rabideau (R-Ward 3), who has voiced concerns about the safety of diners basically eating in the street near traffic, as well as the loss of valuable parking spaces taken up by the seating.
‘HAVE TO BE FAIR’
Two weeks ago, the council tabled the requests after discussing the parking issue. Councilor Chris Jackson (D-Ward 6) said he was concerned that the non-restaurant businesses on City Hall Place might be hampered by the loss of parking.
At a committee meeting last week, Jackson noted that, seven years ago, when Irises started outdoor dining, it was the only restaurant to do so and it didn’t impact parking much.
But now, with other restaurants joining in, parking spaces are at more of a premium, he said.
Irises owner Carol McLean said she has never heard of any complaints about parking since she began outdoor dining.
“Seven years ago, we had this discussion, and the city agreed that it was positive and a benefit to offer outdoor dining, and the people seem to enjoy it,” she said.
Jackson agreed that the practice has been successful, but he was still concerned about other businesses.
“We have to be fair,” he said.
Councilor James Calnon (I-Ward 4) said outdoor dining attracts people to the street.
“The strength of this may be that people wind up looking at the other businesses and noticing them,” he said.
Councilor Mark Tiffer (D-Ward 2) said City Hall Place is probably better suited for pedestrians in the summer than vehicles.
“Downtown is perfectly made for pedestrians with the wider sidewalks,” he said. “We focus too much on cars. People should get out and walk, and that brings energy downtown.”
The council will vote on the restaurant owners’ requests at tonight’s meeting, which begins with a work session at 5 p.m., followed by the regular meeting at 5:30 p.m.
Both are open to the public.
Mayor Donald Kasprzak said he expects the requests will be granted.
“I am pleased with the balance we have and the changes that have been made over the years, and I think we’ve seen a transition that has been very positive,” he said.
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