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 Several Grosse Pointes, including Grosse Pointe Farms, have recently approved new rules enabling the expansion of outdoor dining and sales, allowing businesses like Morning Glory Coffee & Pastries on the Hill to serve customers in public right of way areas like the sidewalk.

Several Grosse Pointes, including Grosse Pointe Farms, have recently approved new rules enabling the expansion of outdoor dining and sales, allowing businesses like Morning Glory Coffee & Pastries on the Hill to serve customers in public right of way areas like the sidewalk.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

Grosse Pointes expand outdoor dining, retail opportunities during COVID-19

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 7, 2020


GROSSE POINTES — City leaders across Michigan are taking steps to make it easier for local restaurants and retailers to serve their customers during the COVID-19 crisis.

With social distancing requirements forcing retailers to admit fewer customers at any given time and restaurants to reduce their indoor dining capacity, city officials are loosening requirements to make it easier for businesses to offer or expand outdoor dining or sales, in some cases by using parking spaces or portions of the public sidewalk to accomplish that goal.

One of the options cities are turning to is an elevated outdoor dining platform called a “parklet.” As Grosse Pointe Park City Manager Nick Sizeland said last month, parklets can be installed in what would normally be parking spaces to create room for more outdoor dining.

Grosse Pointe City was among the first communities on the east side to adopt new rules to expand outdoor business areas. During a meeting via Zoom May 18, the Grosse Pointe City Council unanimously approved a resolution allowing for temporary use of the public right of way for sales, dining and pickup of carryouts and store purchases.

By email, Grosse Pointe City Manager Pete Dame said City Kitchen in the Village was building an outdoor dining platform the week of June 22 using five parking spaces on Kercheval Place.

At a June 8 Grosse Pointe Park City Council meeting on Zoom, the council unanimously approved a resolution that, in the “B-1 General and Local Business Zoning Districts, the City Manager may permit the use of that portion of any sidewalk or street between the property line, parking lots and the traveled portion of the street (including areas customarily used as parking) as a designated area for pickup of goods exclusively reserved for a specific retail establishment or as a designated area for retail sales of goods, food and/or beverages.”

The resolution also allows for temporary street closures to expand outdoor dining and retail sales.

“I’m excited about this opportunity,” Park Mayor Robert Denner said. “We’ve got a lot of businesses that (could) benefit from this. It’s important to have that flexibility. … This would be terrific for our businesses, I believe.”

On July 1, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed bills from the Legislature allowing for the expansion of social districts to create more outdoor dining spaces and cocktails-to-go sold by bars and restaurants. The new bills coincided with Whitmer’s July 1 executive order closing indoor service at bars in most of lower Michigan because of a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, many of which have been linked to a lack of social distancing at bars.

“Following recent outbreaks tied to bars, I am taking this action today to slow the spread of the virus and keep people safe,” Whitmer said in a press release. “If we want to be in a strong position to reopen schools for in-person classroom instruction this fall, then we need to take aggressive action right now to ensure we don’t wipe out all the progress we have made.”

Whitmer’s office said last week that every region in Michigan had seen an increase in COVID-19 cases. Almost 25% of new cases diagnosed in June were in people ages 20-29 — a sharp increase from May, when cases in that age group accounted for 16%.

Sizeland said businesses with liquor licenses can now go to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to get approval for outdoor alcohol sales and sales of individual cups of alcohol that can be carried outside and consumed within the business district. He said the LCC is “trying to fast-track” these approvals.

These initiatives will be evaluated by Park officials, and if they work well, Sizeland said, “permanent authorization could be reviewed by the council at a later time.” He said he would also seek support from the Downtown Development Authority and Tax Increment Finance Authority for parklets and the like.

Sizeland said the Park would be using some of the COVID-19 funds it set aside earlier to further assist the business districts in implementing some of these new options.

“It’s something I’m really excited (about) … to see if we can help out our businesses,” Sizeland said.

During a Grosse Pointe Farms City Council meeting via Zoom June 8, City Manager Shane Reeside said, the council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution whose stated purpose is “to allow restaurants and, in some cases, retail stores to use public property for the expansion of their business.”

Through the end of 2020, licenses can be issued by the city manager — with review by the Building Department and public safety director — to allow a portion of the sidewalk or street as an area to pick up goods or carryouts, or to sell merchandise, food and beverages. Temporary street closures in the B-1 Local Business Zoning District are also allowed under the resolution for the purpose of creating additional dining or sales space. The Farms resolution also notes, “such license shall be at no cost to the property owners other than appropriate insurance costs and indemnities.”

“Since (June 8), we’ve seen an expansion of outdoor dining and the addition of outdoor dining at our restaurants,” Reeside said. “I think some people have a greater comfort level dining outdoors than in an enclosed space.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, “Indoor spaces with less ventilation where it might be harder to keep people apart are more risky than outdoor spaces. … When possible, sit outside at tables spaced at least 6 feet apart from other people.”