ALPENA – Al fresco dining at Alpena has become a popular way for people to grab a bite to eat and sip a cocktail.
But in some of the popular dining establishments where outdoor service is offered, space for pedestrians is limited.
To help reduce risk – while allowing businesses to offer outdoor dining – the City of Alpena is considering changing part of its zoning ordinance to provide a new approvals process and procedures and standards clearer for outdoor seating and service on private property, as well as public right-of-way.
A public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on March 8 regarding the proposed changes to the zoning ordinance.
Planning, development and zoning director Montiel Birmingham said that due to the popularity of al fresco dining, overcrowding can become a problem when many people try to navigate the narrow sidewalks in the city centre. town.
She said the updated zoning ordinance will also help ensure that the steps for business owners to obtain permission to offer outdoor service are simple and will reduce the risks they bring. alterations to their property to add seats without the city’s consent.
She said a business that wants to offer al fresco dining must submit an application along with a design drawing or plans, so the city can make sure it’s in compliance with regulations before being approved. approved.
Al fresco dining that allows alcohol to be served requires state approval.
“We had a few instances where people decided to eat outdoors and then they didn’t comply,” Birmingham said. “It will also help people know what to do before they go too far on a project.”
The city is experiencing the popularity of people being able to eat, drink and congregate downtown, which helps businesses in the area. Birmingham said the city wanted to work with them to make sure their customers were accommodated, but everyone also stayed safe.
It is very beneficial and it attracts residents and visitors,” she said. “People want to be outside and enjoy the good weather and we encourage them. It’s a win-win for everyone. »
Anne Gentry, executive director of the Alpena Downtown Development Authority, said the DDA had agreed that some adjustments needed to be made to outdoor dining, particularly downtown where sidewalks can become congested.
Gentry said better placement of tables and chairs, bike racks and trash cans could help ease congestion, as well as develop allies near local bars and restaurants to accommodate more seating and wider aisles. wide.
“We’re not trying to make it difficult for people, but we just wanted to have a process to make sure there’s enough space to do that,” Gentry said. “We can make a better layout of things and better use of space, better businesses and better use of aisles. We just need to be more creative in how we use the space we have.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.