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Flossmoor OKs requests from two downtown restaurants to continue outdoor dining

A practice that became necessary the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic will be coming back following a request by two downtown restaurants.

The Flossmoor Village Board voted Monday, April 18, to approve an ordinance allowing expanded outdoor service offerings requested by Dunning’s Market and the Bistro on Sterling. Village Manager Bridget Wachtel noted that while the ordinance was crafted based on those requests, it is written in such a way to govern any future requests for outdoor dining the village may receive.

“We tried to think ahead to other situations that may arise,” Wachtel said.

The village board approved outdoor dining and liquor service the past two years to support restaurant recovery during the pandemic, according to a report by Assistant Village Manager Jonathan Bogue. The aforementioned restaurants approached the village with a request to continue that service, noting guests have shown further interest in the outdoor spaces.

“The continued use of outdoor dining is a draw to our downtown area,” Bogue said. “It might also be a rare, positive side effect of this pandemic.”

The approved outdoor service will be similar to what restaurants downtown offered the past two years during warmer months, but with a “smaller footprint” — using fewer parking spaces to do it, according to Bogue. Businesses are still recovering from the challenges of the pandemic, and further allowances for outdoor dining remain important to them, Bogue added.

The approved ordinance allows for outdoor service areas from April 15 to Nov. 1 — the latter an extension from the Oct. 15 end date from the already permitted sidewalk cafes, which also are addressed in the updated text — each year moving forward. It includes allowances for outdoor dining and liquor sales on private and public property, relaxed temporary signage regulations, and relaxed minimum parking regulations, according to Bogue.

“This allows the village to differentiate between outdoor service areas and sidewalk cafes, mostly due to the closeness of the building,” Bogue said.

All outdoor service requires administrative approval. And any use of public property will require a license submitted annually with a hold harmless agreement and proof of insurance that has the village listed as an additional insured party. The full ordinance outlines a variety of conditions for outdoor service and sidewalk cafes, including hours and responsibilities of the businesses.

“I think it’s important to note this was a balancing act by staff, trying to meet the needs of our storefront owners that need more space for parking as well as the restaurants who are looking for more space for what has been a really popular thing: outdoor dining,” Mayor Michelle Nelson said.

Trustee Gary Daggett said he talked to retail businesses about the proposal and only received positive or neutral feedback on the outdoor dining, despite it taking some parking spaces. Businesses generally think outdoor dining brings more people downtown, which is a benefit, he said.

“We’re refining the process every year, which is a great thing,” Trustee Brian Driscoll added.

Consent agenda includes bevy of contracts
The village board voted unanimously to approve its consent agenda. With it, the board approved a contract valued at up to $142,000 with Smitty’s Tree Service Inc. for parkway tree services in fiscal year 2023, including removal of dead, diseased, and dangerous trees; stump grinding; tree trimming; and emergency work. Smitty’s held the FY22 contract for similar services and came in the lowest of three bidders.

The consent agenda approval also included a contract for $40,082 with Go Painters Inc. for FY23 fire hydrant sandblasting and painting. The village has scheduled 409 hydrants to be addressed over the fiscal year. Go Painters submitted the lowest of two bids.

The April 18 consent agenda also included approval of a $40,000 contract with Homewood Disposal Services Inc. for fiscal year 2023 street sweeping of curbed roadways, including collector streets, secondary streets, cul-de-sacs, dead-end streets, and municipal-owned lots. Homewood Disposal, which has been the village’s street sweeping contractor in years past, was the lowest of three bidders.

With the consent agenda, the board also approved a budget amendment that includes a number of adjustments. Among them was the addition of a contract with Flossmoor’s Future, a nonprofit the village will pay $20,000 to manage its Zip Code Party on June 4, 2022 (6/04/22).

The consent agenda also renewed the village’s agreement with Matthew O’Shea Consulting for fiscal year 2023 at a rate of $3,000 per month, an increase from the prior $2,750-per-month agreement. Matthew O’Shea Consulting has been working with Flossmoor since 2019 to secure grants and other funding opportunities. A report from Wachtel notes the mayor and staff have been “very satisfied” with O’Shea’s work.

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