TRAVERSE CITY — Mackinaw Brewing Company owner Rod Langbo said the restaurant’s lobby is so full during the summer he can’t imagine a server carrying drinks from the bar to the sidewalk without spilling.
That’s one reason he doesn’t have summertime sidewalk seating and wouldn’t set up a parking space seating area even if the city decides to allow restaurants to expand streetward.
But that doesn’t mean he’s against the idea.
“I don’t think anybody in Traverse City in the summertime is going hungry, but I defend the current restaurant owners’ rights to make money while they can in the few months we have to make it,” Langbo said.
Traverse City commissioners suggested amending the outdoor café ordinance last year to fix sidewalk congestion and reduce trash generated by outdoor dining. One suggestion: create more space on sidewalks by allowing restaurants to seat diners on platforms in parking spaces.
“Particularly on Front Street some of the outdoor cafés, there are only a couple of them, do cause congestion and it’s really because our sidewalks are so narrow,” said DDA Executive Director Rob Bacigalupi.
Allowing restaurants to move their sidewalk seating to a parking space could be just the trick.
DDA officials sent an email to downtown business owners that asked how many would be interested in putting seating in a parking space. Six responded “yes.” Some shared concerns about platforms’ appearances and parking space loss.
The proposed ordinance changes would allow seating on a platform in parking spaces from May 1 to Oct. 1 on streets where traffic is posted at less than 25 mph, and not after 11 p.m. Platforms would need 36” high barriers, and restaurant owners would need to submit platform plans to the city planner and obtain written support from neighbors before receiving approval.
The Downtown Development Authority is hosting a study session for downtown business owners and the public to weigh in on the proposed changes. The session will be held tonight at 6 p.m. at the Governmental Center on Boardman Avenue.