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Columbia considering allowing downtown restaurants to seat guests in parking spots


The Columbia City council will hear an ordinance that would potentially allow businesses to expand seating capacity outside to parking spots.

The ordinance would allow additional outdoor seating to be no bigger than 14 feet from the face of the curb for angled parking spaces. Parking spaces that are parallel to the curb shall be no longer than 6 feet from the face of the curb.

The city council will hear the ordinance tonight, but no action will be taken until the next meeting. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

According to the ordinance, the city believes this will help businesses expand seating options for peak times during the year.

Businesses would have to apply 21 days before they want to take advantage of the space, and would be allowed to stay there for 2 weeks.

Businesses would be responsible for building the structure and keeping patrons and employees safe. Those participating also have general liability insurance that would cover any accidents.

If the application is approved, the applicant will also pay a meter hood fee of ten dollars per day.

The restaurant must also tell surrounding businesses to make sure they are ok with taking up spots and get a majority of approval.

The Downtown Community Improvement District has been working to get this approved for businesses. Director Nickie Davis said she hopes this can be approved and ready in time for May with graduation and other events in the city.

"While we definitely want to see this done for May, this is something that we see being very important to businesses in fruition, this is something they can utilize all year long," Davis said.

One downtown restaurant owner, that wanted to remain anonymous, shared concerns about the proposal, saying they don't believe it has been thought through enough.

The other concern the owner had was the timeline of the process, saying businesses will have to pay large amounts of money for these structures but are limited to 2 week trial periods for each application. The amount businesses would have to spend would likely not be made up, the owner believes.

This is a concern that Davis shares, saying the structures would likely cost $2,000-3,000. Nickie said businesses would be able to reapply after the 2 week period is over.

"While that's not fantastic because there is a lot of work and a lot of money that goes into these, it something they will be able to utilize throughout the year, they just have to be able to take it down," Davis said.

The concerned owner also brought up the safety of the areas with drivers.

Davis said she hopes the city puts together an extensive list of do's and don'ts, and how to successfully build a safe structure.

"There are fantastic examples in other cities, and our businesses want our customers to be safe, I mean how horrible would it be if something happened," Davis said. "They are going to take every measure they can to make sure these are incredibly safe."

Other business owners in downtown Columbia were supportive of the issue, saying any expansion of outdoor dining could help business.

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Connor Hirsch

Connor Hirsch reports for the weekday night shows, as well as Sunday nights.


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