After new outside seating charges have been set by the Bangor Metropolis Council for downtown bars and eating places, some enterprise house owners are questioning whether or not the advantages of outside seating justify more and more excessive prices to supply it.
Councilors mentioned the brand new price system for outside seating was carried out to create fairness amongst companies, however some enterprise house owners mentioned they really feel they’re being discouraged from providing it altogether.
In late March, town council modified the payment Downtown District companies pay for his or her outside seating that makes use of public house. The brand new price of $2.78 per sq. foot of outside seating will take impact in phases over the following three years. This yr, companies pay one-third of the brand new price this yr, then two-thirds in 2023 and the complete payment in 2024.
That’s a rise from the earlier system the place charges ranged from $50 to $500 relying on whether or not a restaurant bought alcohol and what number of outside seats have been out there. The irregular system resulted in eating places paying wherever from 32 cents to $1.25 per sq. foot.
Councilor Dan Tremble mentioned the brand new price system was designed to be extra equitable for downtown eateries as a result of now everybody pays based mostly on how a lot house they take up, quite than what number of seats fill an area.
“Not all people goes to be glad, however we wished one thing that was honest for everybody,” he mentioned. “It’s not a cash maker for town. It’s about having the ability to handle downtown seating.”
Outside seating in downtown Bangor grew in recognition through the first summer time of the COVID-19 pandemic, when diners sought socially distanced, outside options to indoor eating. That summer time, companies might additionally create “parklets” by utilizing a parking house for outside seating as effectively. In 2020, there was no payment for that. A payment of $500 per parking house for outside seating was created in 2021, however the metropolis solely charged half that for the primary summer time.
Now, companies can nonetheless use parking areas for outside seating below the brand new construction, however they must pay the complete payment of $500 per parking house. As much as two road parking areas for outside eating are permitted for restaurant use between Might 1 and November 1.
When 2 Toes Brewing on Columbia Road began providing outside seating 5 years in the past, proprietor Nit-Noi Ricker, paid town $200 to put 4 seats on the just lately widened sidewalk exterior. She mentioned she added the outside seating to point out passers-by the house was a restaurant, appeal to vacationers and permit patrons to deliver their canine.
Within the years that adopted, Ricker mentioned she paid $250 for the outside seating, however this yr she paid $340 for the 2 parking areas she makes use of for seating. Subsequent yr, she’ll must pay $648, then $973 in 2024 when the brand new charges take full impact.
The 2 parking areas Ricker makes use of permits her to deliver her complete seating capability to 39 seats complete, whereas she will solely match 22 seats inside. She mentioned households or giant teams are inclined to gravitate towards the outside house as a result of they’ve extra room to push tables and chairs collectively.
Ricker mentioned she’s now on the lookout for a brand new location for her enterprise to keep away from paying almost $1,000 for her outside seating space.
The brand new charges particularly damage smaller companies that beforehand paid a fraction of what bigger companies with dozens of outside seats, she mentioned.
“I’m undoubtedly not going to pay $1,000 in two years,” Ricker mentioned. “To have that $1,000 thrown at me on prime of every part else is loopy. My enterprise license is barely $450.”
Tim Gallon, proprietor of Black Bear Brewing on Change Road in Bangor, mentioned he has paid town $250 to supply 4 tables on the sidewalk, “that are at all times the primary to refill,” because the location opened in 2018.
When the pandemic started in 2020, Gallon was additionally capable of set up a patio in a handicap parking spot – which town moved down the road – exterior his enterprise. The patio added about 20 seats to the roughly 40 seats indoors. He mentioned town waived the payment for utilizing that outside house to permit companies to remain afloat through the pandemic.
This summer time, Gallon mentioned he hasn’t been capable of arrange the patio but, as town has been sluggish to maneuver the handicap parking spot and produce boundaries for the house. The tables on the sidewalk are nonetheless out there.
In future summers, Gallon mentioned he deliberate to make use of two parking areas for outside seating, however realizing he’ll must pay $500 per parking house is making him rethink.
Gallon mentioned he feels outside seating is a crucial factor to present a downtown life, particularly throughout Maine’s brief summer time season, however when a metropolis begins rising prices, it discourages companies from providing it.
Whereas he mentioned he understands the necessity to cost one thing, Gallon mentioned he needs town held off on implementing the brand new charges, or eased into them extra regularly to permit small companies to recuperate from the pandemic. Gallon mentioned he fears the rising prices will drive companies out of downtown Bangor altogether.
“Rising up in Bangor, you didn’t go downtown for something,” he mentioned. “When the mall got here in, there have been no eating places or shops downtown and it was dumpy. Now there’s a resurgence downtown and folks need to be there, however there’s no assure that may keep.”