by Heidi L. Everett
Correction: This article differs from the print version from April 30, 2021. The ordinance was not passed at the April 19 City Council meeting. It was voted down.
If one positive thing came out of the pandemic, it’s an appreciation for outdoor dining, and the City of St. Joseph is acknowledging that with consideration of a new temporary ordinance extending outdoor service for some businesses.
In 2020, St. Joseph allowed for temporary outdoor dining expansion as a result of COVID-19 restrictions that banned or limited indoor dining options. Many businesses are still not able to operate at full capacity under the Governor’s Executive Order for COVID-related safety precautions.
At the April 19 city council meeting, the council reviewed a temporary ordinance to operationalize and continue expanded outdoor services through December 31, 2021, or at such a time the council determines it is no longer necessary.
In 2020, there were no specific guidelines that businesses had to follow for outdoor service, and the city experienced challenges relating to the serving of alcohol and having open containers. The new Temporary Interim Ordinance for Outdoor Business Expansion could allow businesses to expand their outdoor seating and serving area legally with guidance. But the serving and drinking of alcohol in public right of ways will not be allowed, and open containers will be cited by the Police Department.
The ordinance includes allowing establishments to have outdoor seating on sidewalks as well as potentially in parking spaces for the consumption of food and beverages. Parking standards of the St. Joseph City Code shall temporarily and proportionately be reduced by any reduction in occupancy ordered by the State of Minnesota. Businesses wishing to add onsite outdoor seating may utilize these temporarily unnecessary parking spaces.
Eligible businesses could include restaurants, bars, clubs, coffee shops, delicatessens, candy shops, or bakeries with sit-down, dine-in service that has occupancy limitations imposed by the State of Minnesota due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible businesses also may include retail and personal service business that require temporary waiting or curbside delivery outside of the business.
Businesses would apply for a no-fee permit in order to utilize onsite temporary outdoor seating.
The application process might include submitting a drawing or site plan and other information demonstrating the location and type of all tables, refuse receptacles and wait stations.
Access to the outdoor dining area, to the extent possible, is limited to access from the principal building.
Businesses shall minimize pedestrian disruption by providing physical or signed separation and a clear passage zone; umbrellas or other structures extending in to the pedestrian passage zone must have a minimum clearance of seven feet above the sidewalk.
The dining area must include a hard, clean and non-slip surface.
Refuse containers, designed to prevent spillage and blowing litter, also must be provided for self-service outdoor dining areas.
Temporary outdoor seating permits would be issued by the city administrator.