Moscow has fielded several requests to allow live entertainment on the expanded sidewalk cafes downtown, but the Moscow City Council Administrative Committee expressed concern Monday that musical performances would draw crowds and prevent social distancing.
The Moscow City Council approved a resolution June 1 that allows the temporary expanded use of public rights of way, or sidewalk cafes, on Main Street so businesses can entertain more patrons while maintaining social distancing. The resolution is in effect until Sept. 30, but it can be terminated, extended or modified by the council.
About 15 businesses have taken advantage of the extra space to operate their businesses since the council passed the resolution.
City Supervisor Gary Riedner told the committee Monday that the resolution does not specify whether live entertainment, including musical performances, is allowed on the expanded sidewalk cafes.
Councilor Maureen Laflin said droplets, which is how COVID-19 is spread, from people’s mouths spray 26 feet when someone sings and that live entertainment would attract more people and, therefore, disrupt proper 6-foot social distancing.
“At this point (I’m) very concerned about granting outdoor entertainment,” she said.
Councilor Art Bettge said the reason for expanding sidewalk cafes into public rights of way in the first place was to provide the ability for businesses to maintain social distancing and the inclusion of outside musical entertainment would defeat that notion.
Riedner said the city received fewer than 30 responses from the public about the proposal to include live entertainment on sidewalk cafes. About one-third of the responses were against the proposal and the rest were generic or they liked the idea, he said.
Riedner said the committee should also consider that the noise from live entertainment would affect residents who live downtown and that health officials say the outdoors is safer than the indoors in regard to preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
The city council will discuss the live entertainment option — with the committee’s recommendation to disallow it on sidewalk cafes — at Monday’s city council meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
If the council follows the committee’s recommendation, Riedner said those who want to apply to perform outside entertainment can still do so. But, he said the city has already canceled the Entertainment in the Park series, Artwalk, Moscow Farmers Market entertainment and the Vandal Town Block Party this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Moscow City Council Public Works/Finance Committee also met Monday and discussed city parking permit prices.
Councilor Brandy Sullivan said at last week’s Moscow City Council budget workshop that she wanted to examine potentially increasing parking permit fees because the fees have decreased substantially over the years and the $40,000 downtown parking study is no longer proposed in the upcoming budget because of the pandemic.
City parking permits are $12 per day, $30 per quarter or $85 per year. In 2009, parking permits were consolidated to one class of permit and the price of that permit was reduced from $375 per year to $75 per year.
Riedner said there are 152 authorized permits. Of the 152, 149 are held by individuals and the other three are being processed for renewal. There are 81 people on a waiting list for a permit, he said.
The permits are for parking in the Jackson Street parking lots, the City Hall lot and the Jefferson Street lot across the street and to the east of City Hall, Riedner said.
Councilor Gina Taruscio said Monday that a downtown parking study needs to be conducted before major price adjustments are made. She said it will be difficult to convince her to raise rates during tough financial times because of the coronavirus.
“I don’t know if there’s any other situation that could be worse than this one — to choose to raise prices on parking in our downtown that’s already struggling with COVID and all of the effects therein,” Taruscio said.
Sullivan said the undervalued permit prices decreased so much from over a decade ago that now there is a waiting list of 81 applicants.
The Public Works/Finance Committee will discuss the fees further at its next committee meeting Aug. 10.
A public hearing on the city’s fiscal 2021 budget and fee resolution, which starts Oct. 1, will be held at Monday’s city council meeting. The fee resolution includes parking permit fees.
Riedner said fees can be adjusted even after the council approves the fee resolution.
A fee increase of more than 5 percent requires a public hearing, he said.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.