Enclosures could help Farmington restaurants, bars

Farmington city and Downtown Development Authority (DDA) officials hope to make dining outdoors a little easier this winter, by helping restaurants and bars install enclosures.

The DDA may use an unexpected CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act reimbursement to invest in winter weather business equipment. Local volunteers and Oakland County officials have looked at greenhouse-type enclosures that could keep diners and drinkers warm, Director Kate Knight said.

Council members on Monday approved the introduction of an ordinance to allow enclosures for outdoor dining, subject to the city’s building code requirements. They also discussed whether businesses could use a four-sided enclosure under current COVID-19 restrictions.

City attorney Beth Saarela said while the order didn’t specifically mention enclosures, “if you have a structure that has four walls, that is going to be, in our interpretation, an indoor dining area. It would not be permissible right now while the order does not permit indoor dining.”

When orders are stepped down, Saarela added, an enclosure would provide more space for social distancing. Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Monday that indoor dining restrictions will remain in place until December 20.

Under the proposed ordinance, business owners would submit an application to the city’s Community and Economic Development office. A review committee will consider issues like parking and snow removal, along with building and fire code compliance, Economic and Community Development Director Kevin Christiansen said Monday.

The DDA may also use the enclosures in Riley Park, Knight said.

“We are envisioning a ‘shanty town’ around the ice rink with cool, greenhouse cabanas,” she said. “Maybe you do carryout and you skate, or you bring your hot chocolate in there… We think that there is enough interest in being outside that we want to just use it as a draw to bring folks downtown to shop safely and support local businesses safely.”

 

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