The partial reopening of restaurants on June 1 with the restrictions of outside seating only has created a conundrum for some eateries. While some, like Wintergreens in Isanti or The Oak Inn in North Branch, already had outdoor patios at their disposal, some, such as Cambridge Bar and Grill and Tailgaters had to improvise. Then there are places such as Sidelines, People’s and Cambridge Pizza Pub where convenient outdoor space was extremely limited.
On the very day the establishments were allowed to reopen, the Cambridge City Council passed three motions meant to give those businesses in that final category a little help.
The first motion was to close the north half of 2nd Ave SE in downtown Cambridge, extending from the alley to Adams Street. The section of the street still open was also designated as one way, with cars only allowed to travel eastbound. A form of this motion was a virtual guarantee as the mention of this possibility via social media resulted in resounding positive feedback. In fact, the city had already placed barricades in front of Sidelines and the restaurant had already begun serving customers that afternoon.
The second motion garnered a little more discussion and was amended before being passed by a 4-1 vote, with Joe Morin voting nay. This motion called for making the Arlington lot available for restaurants to use for outside dining, however it also initially included the city purchasing picnic tables and a tent for the restaurant(s) to use.
“That’s a hard question,” City Administrator Lynda Woulfe said, regarding the city purchasing a tent and tables. “(Cambridge Bar and Grill) purchased materials on their own. (But) Bob Simon (owner of People’s) had stressed ‘I would love to do outside dining, but I just don’t have any resources left after being closed for these months to try to invest in tents.’”
Woulfe suggested the tables, which would be reused at the various city parks, be paid for from Northbound Liquor proceeds since the store continues to do excellent business.
Council member Bob Shogren made a motion to purchase a 20x40 tent and up to four picnic tables to place at the Arlington lot.
“I’m against this,” said Morin. “If People’s wants to do this, it’s not too expensive to rent them. I think the city getting into it is a very slippery slope. Yes, we can use them. I think we’re getting into a dangerous area. We need to conserve money.”
Ultimately, Shogren amended his motion to only purchase four picnic tables to be placed at the Arlington lot.
The final motion was to amend the ordinance regarding sidewalk cafe’s. The amendments remove the requirement that restaurants remove tables and other accessories by 10 p.m. each night, suspending the requirement of a license for sidewalk cafe’s, allowing restaurants to place accessories in front of other businesses if those owners agree, and finally to adjust the clearance space between obstacles in order to match ADA requirements. This motion passed unanimously.
Veterans Park agreement modified
Also at the June 1 meeting, the council approved by a 4-1 vote a “donation” to the Veteran’s Memorial Park Organization in the form of free water for the sprinkler system for the park, which will be built at 207 Birch St. S. - across the street from the old Courthouse. The approximate cost of the water would be $1560 per year for irrigation.
Council member Morin cast the lone no vote, citing his concern the donation would change the definition of the park from a private one to a public one.
“This is a private park, and that was made perfectly clear when this agreement was originally signed.” Morin said. “We didn’t want to run into the legal troubles of Lake City where people wanted to post things like a swastika because it was a public park. But if it’s a private park, they can’t do that. Even if we just pay for the water... we’re opening it up again, all of a sudden it might be a public park again.”
While the motion did pass, it is also subject to review by the State Auditor to make sure it is legal for the city to make this “donation” to a non-profit organization.
It was also announced during the presentation there will be a groundbreaking ceremony at the site at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 12.