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Rochester Street Café, the parklet policy to review

Rochester City Council will discuss a potential policy outlining when and where patios can extend onto the street, for both private business and public use.

“I think the pandemic and the use of the streets for outdoor seating has helped us see what kind of atmosphere we can create if we work more in that direction,” said Molly Patterson-Lungren, coordinator of the preservation of the city’s heritage and urban development.

RELATED: Go and Sit in the Street; New patio spaces lead customers to cafes

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city implemented a temporary program allowing bars and restaurants to expand outdoor seating to meet operating requirements established by the state. The program has been extended until October of this year.

The new proposal will ask city council if they want to expand the practice and establish more defined parameters, including requiring extended patios in parking lots to have floors built at sidewalk level to ensure a smooth transition.

While no fee is expected for Monday’s review, the report to council suggests setting a cost for businesses that wish to have dedicated patios that will occupy parking spaces.

Sidewalk decks are subject to permit fees, but Will Forsman, owner of Cafe Steam, said the costs of using parking spaces have been high in the past.

“They are very expensive to rent even for a month,” he said, acknowledging that the city had to recoup some of the lost parking fees.

Matt Monsoor, of La Crosse, performs on the downtown terrace of Cafe Steam on Saturday, July 24, 2021 in Rochester.  (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Matt Monsoor, of La Crosse, performs on the downtown terrace of Cafe Steam on Saturday, July 24, 2021 in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / [email protected])

At the same time, he said the past two months have shown the benefits of downtown spaces when businesses can set them up without heavy expense.

Raelynn Chase, chief executive of Potbelly, also said the price could determine whether additional outdoor seating goes to the First Avenue Southwest restaurant.

“It would depend on what kind of cost we are looking at,” she said.

The city’s proposal offers the possibility of creating public spaces on the street at no additional cost, but the site would have to be public, which means that the sponsoring company or organization would not have exclusive rights to the space.

Holly Masek, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Alliance, said the organization, along with Destination Medical Center, had already started adding new downtown seating options, Peace Plaza chairs and tables to the new benches. in the redevelopment of the heart of the city.

She said it was part of an ongoing effort to make the downtown area more attractive to residents, downtown workers and visiting patients.

“I just think it adds so much for the community,” she said.

The city council will discuss the proposed program at its meeting at 6 p.m. Monday in the council chamber of the city-county government center, 151 Fourth St. SE. The in-person meeting will have a limited number of seats due to distance requirements, but it will also be webcast online at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and will be available on the Spectrum 180 or 188 cable channel and the Metronet 80 channel.

UPCOMING MEETINGS

Meetings scheduled for the week of August 30 include:

Rochester

• Study session of the City Council, 3:30 p.m. on Monday. The meeting will be webcast live at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and will be available on cable channel Spectrum 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.

• City Council, Monday at 6 pm in the City Council Chamber of the City-County Government Center. The meeting will be webcast live at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and will be available on cable channel Spectrum 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.

• Régie des services publics, Tuesday 4 pm. The meeting will be webcast live on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DD1h89VmL-E

• Council on Ethical Practices, Wednesday at 10 am. Login information is available at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas. Video of the meeting will be posted the next day.

• Police Public Service Commission, Thursday at 3 pm. Access information for the online meeting is available at www.rochetermn.gov/agendas

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