See Alderman Lyda Krewson's remarks in comment section that follows this post.
Prompted by the application for a liquor license by Gringo's at 398 N. Euclid (which is set for a hearing tomorrow February 5) I wanted once again (see mention in earlier post here) to bring up the issue of walkability in the neighborhood and use of the public domain for sidewalk dining, which can be a component of the liquor license application. Perhaps the hearing tomorrow can serve as a catalyst for further discussion about this neighborhood-wide problem before the arrival of outdoor dining season.
Some restaurants have enclosures (Duff's, the former Liluma, Kopperman's, and, I understand, Gringo's plans include one too) which serve to separate outdoor dining areas from pedestrian zones. Other establishments disregard existing codes and ordinances that address these issues and do as they please. For instance, it is impossible to walk except single file through the phalanx of tables scattered at the corners of Euclid and Maryland, to say nothing about the danger of getting poked in the eye by low-hanging umbrellas. The sidewalks in front of SubZero, Culpepper's and Brennan's are so congested with tables and chairs that I avoid those areas as much as possible rather than deal with making my way through the mess. Bar Italia sets up couches and bar tables in the public right-of-way, and places a hostess station at an awkward angle outside its outdoor patio fence. Some restaurants place their tables smack in the middle of the entry points to wheelchair access ramps.
Restaurants and bars that are accorded use of the public domain at no cost should be required to abide by a "good neighbor" policy and not encroach on the pedestrian right-of-way, clean the sidewalks daily, and maintain the sidewalks so they are free of trash. Businesses such as Starbucks and FroYo should be required to empty outside trash containers regularly so disposable containers don't spill onto the sidewalks.
In a mixed-use neighborhood such as the CWE, cooperation is key to continued success. It is important to remember that, despite the recent proliferation of bars and restaurants, the CWE is not primarily an "entertainment district"....it is a highly desirable urban neighborhood with an active commercial district. With appropriate guidelines and enforcement, the interests of both residents and business owners can be accommodated, to the benefit of all. The grumbling about these issues has been going on for years. Now may be the time to finally do something about it. Where do we go from here?
Director of Streets Todd Waelterman responded immediately to a letter from a neighbor regarding enforcement of codes and ordinances pertaining to restaurants that have outside dining:
"The Streets Department is responsible for regulating outside dining, we will do a sweep this spring and bring everyone back into compliance."