Downtown dining

Riley Harris, left, and Dana Rand from the Moscow Street Department compact a new paved pedestrian ramp last summer on South Main Street. Two parking spaces had been turned into a walkway for pedestrians so Cafe Artista, Kitchen Counter, Mad Greek and Tapped could expand their outdoor seating on the sidewalk.

Downtown Moscow businesses will once again be allowed to expand into Main Street rights-of-way so they can entertain more patrons during the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining social distancing.

The Moscow City Council unanimously — except for Councilor Brandy Sullivan who was absent — approved a resolution at Monday night’s regular meeting permitting businesses to expand into sidewalks and potentially other rights-of-way.

The resolution contains almost exactly the same details as last year’s resolution.

“I think it worked really well last year, and I think it is something that helps small businesses,” Councilor Maureen Laflin said.

The resolution, which expires Dec. 1 unless terminated earlier because of weather conditions, suspends certain sections of the city’s sidewalk cafe regulations.

With permission from the neighboring business, an establishment will be able to expand in front of that neighboring business’s property.

City Supervisor Gary Riedner said some businesses used curb extensions to extend their business footprint last year and neighboring businesses, which may not have given permission, complained because that extension of the business may have prevented drivers or pedestrians from seeing their businesses. A signed letter with permission of the neighboring business to expand in front of their business will be required this year.

“In our attempt to be as flexible as possible last year, it actually was not well received by some neighboring businesses,” Riedner said. “We want to prevent that from happening again.”

Also under the resolution, sidewalk cafe permit fees will be waived and where liquor is allowed to be served, establishments do not need to be a “full-service restaurant.”

A 4-foot wide pathway is required to allow for pedestrian access through any expanded business footprint.

Riedner said the city is in contact with the Idaho State Police Alcohol Beverage Control to straighten out alcohol regulations for business’s temporary sidewalk cafes.

Riedner said even if COVID-19 restrictions end this year, people will likely want to remain socially distanced.

“So this seemed like a good thing to do to continue the same expansion as we had last year,” he said.

In other business, the council:

Approved the city’s restroom facility family friendly/gender-neutral conversion plan. Almost all city of Moscow-owned or occupied restroom facilities are gender-neutral or can be with minor modifications, which include signage and changing locking systems. Lock and signage updates are estimated at $3,000 and are expected to be completed this year.

Accepted the low bid from Germer Construction of Moscow for $899,560 and authorized staff approval of construction change orders in an amount not to exceed 10 percent of the contract amount for the Indian Hills water line improvements project.

Accepted the city’s audited Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for fiscal 2020. The city has received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 17 consecutive years. City staff will submit the fiscal 2020 CAFR for consideration for the award.

Approved names for the newly remodeled 1912 Center auditorium “Lecompte Auditorium” and the west staircase “Mark Ford Anderson Staircase.” Janet Lecompte donated the initial funds to purchase and begin restoration of the 1912 Center and Mark Ford Anderson’s family made significant financial contributions to the renovation of the staircase to the second and third floors of the building.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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