GLENWOOD SPRINGS — City officials are looking at an annual lease rate for local restaurants to use sidewalk space for outdoor seating of $1.75 per square foot, plus an administrative fee of $75 per year for the privilege of using the public areas.
However, Glenwood Springs City Council members said that they are not inclined to charge an extra impact fee for future improvements to the city’s water and sewer systems that could see increased wear and tear as a result.
“I’d rather see us postpone that for the first year until we know what the real impacts are,” Councilman Ted Edmunds said, adding that any extra costs could discourage some restaurants from taking advantage of the opportunity.
“Let’s try to make this affordable, and look at it again after the first year,” he said.
Council directed city staff to include the proposed fees in an overall outdoor seating policy for restaurants that will come before council for formal final approval next month.
The city recently authorized the Downtown Development Authority to include widening of the south sidewalk along a two-block stretch of Seventh Street, between Blake and Grand avenues, often referred to as “restaurant row,” as part of a larger, $1 million downtown improvements project that got under way last week.
The extra sidewalk space will be available for lease to restaurants in the area, and will include a raised concrete platform outside the Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub, which is undergoing renovations in conjunction with the outdoor seating plan. The pub has agreed to pay an extra fee to help pay for the platform.
The new fees will also be applied to any other downtown restaurants or elsewhere in Glenwood Springs that already use public sidewalk space for a seating area.
Glenwood’s community development director, Andrew McGregor, said the extra seating capacity could result in an increase in water and sewer system use, and noted that any physical expansions to restaurants normally trigger a “system improvement fee” through the building permit process.
Whether that should apply to seasonal, outdoor seating on public space was something council wanted to assess over time before adding any extra fees.
Lari Goode, who co-owns The Pullman restaurant at Seventh and Cooper with husband Mark Fisher, said restaurants don’t necessarily view outdoor seating as increased capacity, but rather an added benefit for customers.
Because weather and other factors can shut down outdoor seating areas at any time, most restaurants reserve tables indoors in case people need to move inside quickly, she said.
Goode and other restaurant owners who spoke at the Thursday meeting said a reasonable annual fee would be acceptable.
Council was presented with options ranging from the flat annual fee or per-table fee to a per-square-foot annual or monthly fee.
The city of Aspen charges by far the highest fee for public dining spaces in the region, at $2.50 per square foot per month, McGregor said, while Grand Junction is on the low end at $1 per square foot per year.
“I encourage you to keep the lease rates at a reasonable level, and hopefully the return will come to the city in increased sales and more activity downtown,” said DDA board chairman Charlie Willman.
Willman said work is expected to begin on the Seventh Street portion of the downtown streetscape project on April 7, with the goal of completing it by early June.