Outdoor cafe rules may change

The San Luis Obispo City Council is scheduled Tuesday to look at two proposals intended to make it easier for sidewalk cafes to be established downtown.

One plan waives fees and restrictions, and the other sets rules for converting parking spaces to sidewalks for such cafes.

The proposal grows in part out of the recent removal of five parking spaces at Higuera and Chorro streets because the Wineman Hotel remodeling.

Chipotle is opening a restaurant on the ground floor, and Muzio’s Grocery is moving there from its location on Monterey Street.

But one neighboring business complained loudly when the city decided to remove five metered parking spaces to accommodate a sidewalk cafe in the Wineman, even though other business leaders supported the project.

During that process, city officials also realized that no business has availed itself of the city’s sidewalk cafe ordinance since it passed in 2000. Restaurants that seem to have sidewalk cafes downtown have tables on private property, and not on publicly owned sidewalks.

City planning staff is recommending that the city reduce the application fee for the permit for a sidewalk cafe, increase the sidewalk rental fee to $1 per square foot from 66 cents per square foot and waive other fees, including the $17,000 fee for each additional parking space required to accommodate the expanded dining area.

“In summary, a sidewalk cafe is more likely to be a fiscal benefit to area merchants and restaurants and in turn to city tax revenue,” according to a report by planning staff.

Public Works Department staff is also looking at adopting a procedure that would regulate when public hearings are held and who will be informed when parking spaces are proposed to be converted to sidewalks for dining or other uses.