There may be even less parking on Huntsville’s Main Street, but the Town will gain two parking spots behind Mill on Main.
The restaurant owner, Jerry Feltis, was before Huntsville Council at a special remote meeting held on October 14, asking that the parking spaces in front and just west of his restaurant be removed and that the sidewalk be bumped out in favour of creating an outdoor patio.
While the exact number of parking spots that would be impacted was not confirmed at the meeting, it is anticipated that two or three additional parking spaces would be sacrificed in favour of the patio.
Feltis said the impact of COVID-19 restrictions have hit restaurants hard and brought to light the importance of having tables outside.
“We’re in our tenth year of operation there, one of the first to build out back, and thank goodness we had those patios this year, it was a saving grace, but we’re still at 50 per cent capacity. It really kind of brought to light how important it is to have outdoor seating and as we started to really look at the streetscape project and noticed where the bump out of the sidewalk kind of ended, right before coming in front of our restaurant, that was kind of when we started to engage relatively quickly on that to see if there was some movement there,” he told council.
He said while he realizes Main Street would lose the parking spaces in front of his business, he’s willing to sign over the two spots behind his building to the Town. He also said restaurant staff would be given a directive to park away from the main street, at the municipal parking lot beside the Huntsville Curling Club.
Feltis said a patio on Main Street would not only help his business but create a more vibrant downtown.
Huntsville Councillor Bob Stone, who sits on the board of the Downtown Huntsville BIA, said he likes the idea of having sidewalk patios, much like in Europe, “but there’s concerns about giving you special considerations that other businesses don’t have. There’s also concerns about, we make this accommodation for you and your business and maybe a few years from now it’s somebody that cuts hair and isn’t a restaurant anymore. Now I know you put lots of money into the back of the building, so I do suspect it’s going to be around for a very long time.”
He asked Feltis whether he’d be able to serve alcohol across a sidewalk and whether he’d go ahead and put tables in the parking spots if his request to widen the sidewalk was not approved.
Feltis said when they purchased the establishment, which was called Roma at that time, it came with a license to serve 12 people out front. “For those of you that remember, they diverted traffic through the parking spots so that they could have that little patio out front. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen so much negative feedback off of that in my life… Dave and I bought the building, we’ve invested well over half a million dollars, probably close to three-quarters of a million dollars, in this business just in capital projects,” he said, reiterating how vital outdoor seating is to the business due to COVID-19 and associated restrictions, which he anticipated would continue to impact businesses for years to come. “We believe that every seat that we’re able to acquire outdoors is imperative to the success of our business.”
In the end, council agreed to issue a change order to remove the parking spaces and extend the sidewalk, while taking ownership of the two parking spaces behind the restaurant.
“I’m going to just remind council and urge council that this be the last change order that we entertain,” warned Councillor Brian Thompson. “We’ve given everyone on Main Street two years to come to the table on this with their suggestions and so on and so forth, and we’re now right up to the wire when the prequalified contractors and so on and so forth will be notified… Once we get into construction and we start issuing change orders…we are then at the mercy of the contractor and then it can get really, really expensive.”
“Thank you Councillor Thompson, and I couldn’t agree more with you,” responded Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano.
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