Food, drinks with side of fresh air

Josh Trotto, left, and Tessa Widmyer eat outside of Mikey’s Greek Gyros on South Main Street in downtown Moscow. On Monday night, the Moscow City Council approved businesses to expand into sidewalks in similar fashion to last year so that more customers can be seated while maintaining social distancing.

Fourteen downtown Moscow establishments extended their business footprints into Main Street sidewalks last year, and City Supervisor Gary Riedner said he assumes several businesses will do the same this year.

“We got pretty positive feedback,” Riedner said. “There were a couple situations that you know, (we) ran into some complications but mostly we got pretty good feedback, that the businesses liked it and it added a vibrancy to downtown.”

The Moscow City Council on Monday night approved a resolution allowing businesses to expand into sidewalks and potentially other rights-of-way so establishments can entertain more patrons during the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining social distancing.

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.

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.”

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

Bev Bafus, co-owner of Cafe Artista on the corner of Third and Main streets, said she plans to set tables and chairs for customers on the sidewalks of her Third and Main streets frontages.

She said the outdoor furniture will be against her building - not in the middle of the sidewalks.

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

Bafus said there will be no tables or chairs in front of the coffee shop’s walk-up window on the Third Street side, so customers can still order from the window.

“We’ve always had tables outside with the street cafe ordinance just because of summer and they’re especially popular on Saturdays with the Farmers Market and the nice weather,” Bafus said. “People like to be outside. People feel safer outside I think (because of COVID-19) and also if the weather’s nice, it’s just kind of fun.”

Like Cafe Artista, Bucer’s Coffeehouse Pub will take advantage of the council resolution this year, owner Pat Greenfield said.

“It was awesome because it got people out in the fresh air and spatially away from each other more,” Greenfield said of the resolution.

In addition to Bucer’s existing outdoor seating, Greenfield said she plans to set tables and chairs in front of her business on the curb extension, or curb bulb-out; on the sidewalk in front of her “awesome business neighbor” Story Real Estate; and potentially in an on-street parking space currently designated for curbside pickup.

Riedner said there was some confusion last year about whether curb extensions were included as rights-of-way. He said there will be no confusion this year as it was determined curb extensions, like outside Bucer’s, will be allowed to have seating.

The city clerk will be responsible for reviewing and approving sidewalk cafe applications or modifications consistent with the resolution, the resolution said.

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

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