Sidewalk Cafes Up for Debate in TC

Changes to the sidewalkcafeé ordinance in Traverse City will move toward a vote from the full Traverse City Commission.

A special committee looked into possible changes for the past six months.

Tonight they addressed concerns about the space in front of restaurants on Front St. being used as outdoor dining areas.

“Traverse City has become very popular downtown is very crowded and the sidewalks were really not built for this kind of activity,” said Jim Carruthers, Traverse City Mayor Pro Term.

Which is why changes needed to be made to the sidewalk cafe ordinance before the city commission votes on it.

One of the changes is widening the sidewalks standards from four to five feet so people with disabilities will be able to access the area.

“To get two wheel chairs past each other, you need at least five feet,” said Carruthers.

Most places meet this requirement, until chairs are pulled out and tables are moved, making it hard for people to pass

“We would also require that the cafes have a hard edge barrier that would be anchored into the sidewalk to maintain that, which actually could be reviewed by our assistant manager to decide if that hard edge is needed,” said Carruthers.

Tables and chairs must be removed from city property after hours and cafes will have to make sure all trash is cleared. Any two violations in a given season can result in a revoked permit.

“So were talking about other ideas and maybe calling them parklets and having the city design them and have them be a part of our existing sidewalks,” said Carruthers.

A sub committee is being considered for this idea, but commissioners still have a lot to discuss and want more input from businesses, which they got tonight

“I think it would lend itself to the beauty downtown and the synergy that we are creating and that it’s involved in and continued to evolve,” said John McGee, Co-Owner of a downtown Traverse City business.

Now that the special committee looking at the sidewalk cafe ordinance has made their recommendations, the full Traverse City Commission could vote to enact it at their August fourth meeting.