City officials agreed to give up 500 square feet of public space for a Main Street restaurant to gain outdoor dining space Thursday (Nov. 3).
A legal agreement with owners of the Living Room on Main would allow for 20 outdoor seats for dining (with alcohol) and the installation of a fountain. The agreement outlines that the restaurant would maintain liability for the dining area and also the upkeep of a proposed fountain because it lies on public-owned property. (The fountain and seating could be revoked at any time, according to the agreement.)
The partnership would increase the value of the properties around it, thereby benefitting all downtown businesses, economic development director Bob Ironsmith said.
Julie Ward Bujalski expressed some concern for a business profiting on public property.
"Whatever we do with this agreement could set a precedent," she said. "If their business is going to [profit much] above [the others] because they use the public's right of way, then there should be some fee for that."
“There is money back for the seats in the restaurant,” Johnson said. “I collected sales tax with every purchase.”
Johnson then explained how the ongoing $142,000 streetscaping project impacted her business. Construction began in late August near her business at the corner of Highland Avenue and Main Street to add brick pavers, widen the street in some places and move cable, phone and utility lines underground.
“We never benefitted from that personally,” she said, “But the community certainly has.”
At the heart of that inconvenient project, she explained, is a cooperative effort to attract visitors downtown. She said she wouldn’t profit much from an extra 20 seats — after purchasing furniture, paying servers and liscencing fees — but she'll add to the quaint downtown appeal that is so key to sustaining its economic viabilty.
“I think it’s more of a community thing,” she said.
All the commissioners agreed, including Bujalski.