Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

March 18, 2014

Editorial: Parking space dining idea needs a real-world tryout

They may get an “A” for effort and creativity, but some would likely flunk them on the common-sense test.

The latest idea in downtown dining is to allow restaurateurs to convert parking spaces in front of their businesses into sidewalk cafes. Diners would sit on a raised platform that would extend seven feet from the curb and be surrounded by a railing at least three feet high. The busines would rent the space or spaces for the day.

Exhaust fumes would be free.

A number of downtown restaurants have in recent years created sidewalk cafes with a few tables and chairs usually surrounded by a barrier of some kind.

In truth, however, there are darned few sidewalks in Traverse City wide enough to comfortably accommodate tables, chairs and pedestrians; there are concerns the cafe-style setups could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and in general be a pain to those passing through.

Other cities around the nation and in Michigan have successfully used the street-side platforms, city officials said, and they began taking a look at the idea.

City Commissioner Barbara Budros had what might be a pretty typical reaction.

“It could be a nightmare with parking and a nightmare with traffic so close,” said Budros, a member of a commission committee that will consider the in-the-street dining plan. “But other places that have looked at it have been very successful, so we should see how it goes.”

The most obvious concern is mixing cars, drivers and people sitting at outdoor tables — particularly with some of those cars being maneuvered into a parking spot. Drivers trying to parallel park don’t need targets.

The only reasonable solution, then, is to not mix dining platforms and parking, which could mean giving up a significant number of parking spaces to make room for diners.

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