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Ferndale, Berkley councils ease outdoor dining, sales restrictions

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published July 6, 2020

FERNDALE/BERKLEY — To help local businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, both the Ferndale and Berkley city councils passed resolutions for temporary outdoor seating and sales programs.

The Ferndale City Council approved its measures at its June 22 meeting. Before the council were three resolutions to allow businesses the temporary use of off-street parking areas for outdoor seating and sales; temporary use of parking spaces on city streets, sidewalks, alleys, and parking spaces; and temporary permits to licensed mobile vendors, which included food trucks.

As businesses have been trying to reopen, some — particularly restaurants — are trying to find ways to operate within the coronavirus restrictions in place that call for fewer patrons in establishments because of social distancing requirements.

Community and Economic Development Director Jordan Twardy stated that the city identified areas in its parking system and alleys that businesses will be able to use, as well as streamline the designated zones for curbside pickup.

“We kind of looked at our inventory of spaces to where we could create safe spots for people to gather for sales, seating or dining to be able to make up for some of that loss of space, because if you’ve got to create a 6-foot buffer between people, that’s less space for commerce, less space for gathering, so we tried to make up for that in some small way,” he said.

Twardy said Ferndale also is considering creating parklets in one or two parking spaces — possibly on Nine Mile Road — to create a space for businesses.

City Councilman Greg Pawlica questioned if there was a limit to how much space can be taken up by one or a couple of businesses near each other, as he worried about smaller businesses being left out. City Attorney Dan Christ said the businesses are allowed to apply for spaces that are adjacent to them, though more conversations with the city would have to happen if multiple adjacent businesses wished to utilize this resource.

As this is a pilot program, Twardy said the city is still figuring out the situation.

“We have 48 spaces that are affected by all of these opportunities, and we’re going to see what the demand is coming through,” he said. “We’re going to fall back on the resolutions’ language to make sure that we spread the wealth as much as possible.”

Hoping to help its downtown businesses, the Berkley City Council passed its resolution during its June 15 meeting.

Community Development Director Erin Schlutow laid out four proposals for relaxing the city’s restrictions on outdoor dining service areas. She said the resolution was written to not only help Berkley’s downtown district on 12 Mile Road, but Coolidge Highway, 11 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue as well.

The four proposals businesses can pursue include outdoor sales and sidewalk cafes in the public right of way; the conversion of private parking areas for outdoor areas; the conversion of municipal parking areas for shared outdoor areas; and the closure of designated residential side streets from main street to the public alleyway immediately behind the commercial businesses. The residential side streets that Berkley designated could be closed are North Robina at 12 Mile; North Phillips at 12 Mile; South Griffith at 12 Mile; South Thomas at 12 Mile; and East Dorothea at Coolidge Highway.

“We’re certainly not out of the woods yet by any means, but this would help us facilitate business growth and facilitate our businesses’ ability to sort of rebound a little bit. But most importantly, we’re also practicing healthy distancing, as well as being in compliance with state and the county officials as far as ... health orders go,” City Manager Matt Baumgarten said.

Mayor Pro Tem Bridget Dean, a Berkley business owner herself, appreciated the creative thinking in the resolution’s design.

“Desperate circumstances require desperate measures, and I’m grateful that our city is being proactive and sees the need and is meeting that need,” she said. “I am going to speak for the business community; you know, I’m just going to take that privilege and say thank you. Whether people utilize it or not, it’s there and it shows that you care and I am very, very appreciative of the steps that have been taken.”