April 26, 2013

City approves outdoor dining


PLATTSBURGH — There will be outdoor dining in the City of Plattsburgh this summer.

Councilors agreed Thursday night to allow three downtown restaurants to utilize parking spaces in the street in front of their businesses to install tables and umbrellas for outdoor dining from May 1 through Sept. 30.

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Outdoor dining will be available in front of Irises Cafe and The Pepper on City Hall Place and at Olive Ridley’s on Court Street. Concrete barriers will be installed at the owner’s expense to create the dining areas.

The council granted approval for outdoor dining for Champlain Wine Company, also on City Hall Place, two weeks ago, but tabled the requests from the other three restaurants when concerns about safety and the loss of parking were brought up.

The restaurant owners appeared before the council’s Community Relations Committee last week to plead their case. They said outdoor dining boosts sales not only for them, but for other businesses, and they have not heard of any complaints.

Councilors approved their requests Thursday night despite strong objections from Councilor George Rabideau (R-Ward 3), who reiterated his concerns about safety and the loss of valuable parking spaces.

“These parking spaces are for the public, the elderly and for those who can’t move around as good who might want to go to some of the other businesses down there,” Rabideau said.

“We have to think of everyone when we vote, not just those who will prosper from this.”

Carol McLean, owner of Irises, told councilors before Thursday’s meeting that outdoor dining has benefited her business greatly since she began the practice in 2006.

“I know it’s difficult to strike a balance between competing interests, but for us, outdoor dining accounts for more than 30 percent of our summer sales,” she said.

“It’s essential to carry us through the winter.”

Dennis Curtin, an attorney who works downtown, said he did not believe outdoor dining presented a safety issue.

“I think it has been quite a benefit to have these facilities be able to do that,” Curtin said.

Councilor Chris Jackson (D-Ward 6), who represents City Hall Place, said he supported outdoor dining, but as a compromise offered to amend McLean’s request from using four parking spaces to three.

The Pepper and Olive Ridley’s only use two parking spaces and Champlain Wine Company uses one.

The council voted 3 to 2 in favor of Jackson’s amendment, but it failed because four affirmative votes are required to approve any resolution. James Calnon (I-Ward 4) and Rabideau voted against the amendment.

Councilor Chris Case (D-Ward 5) was absent.

McLean’s request to use four parking spaces was approved by a 4 to 1 vote with Rabideau voting against it.

The requests from The Pepper and Olive Ridley’s were also approved by 4 to 1 votes.

Calnon said the city needs to look at ways of possibly expanding the sidewalks on City Hall Place so outdoor dining can be accommodated without disrupting parking spaces.

“We need to pursue some creative ways to rectify this situation,” he said.

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