St. Louis Park businesses will be able to wine and dine customers in temporary outdoor tents until Oct. 1 after the St. Louis Park City Council approved an extension.
The city’s authorization for the tents expired July 31, leading to a business request to continue to keep the tents in place.
St. Louis Park began to allow temporary outdoor customer service areas in June 2020 after Gov. Tim Walz announced he would permit limited outdoor dining at restaurants and bars in Minnesota, according to a city staff report. The council amended the policy last December to change the end date from the last day of 2020 to 30 days after the governor ended his peacetime emergency.
“The intent of the policy was to allow businesses and institutions to follow the emergency orders and temporarily expand some of their activity spaces in order to help offset capacity limitations and recoup lost revenues,” the staff report says.
The St. Louis Park policy allows retail businesses, taprooms, cocktail rooms and exercise classes to exceed typical limits on the percent of a property that can be used for a business.
After the governor’s emergency order ended July 1 as a result of negotiations with the Legislature, St. Louis Park’s policy expired at the end of July.
“There was a little bit of a mad scramble to figure out what to do next,” Councilmember Lynette Dumalag before the council voted Aug. 2 to approve the policy’s extension.
When adopted, the policy allowed restaurants to host diners but with more distance between them, allowing customers to feel more comfortable about continuing to patronize St. Louis Park businesses, Dumalag said.
She added, “I want to credit the establishments and our city staff for working toward a solution to do a temporary extension of that, knowing that there is the delta variant and we don’t know where this is going to lead.”
An estimated five businesses have been taking advantage of the authorization this summer.
Dumalag noted in a July 26 study session that some neighbors have expressed concerns about parking in neighborhoods given that the tents take up space in parking lots. Nevertheless, she joined other members in voting 6-0 for the extension.
Mayor Jake Spano did not attend the meeting but urged flexibility during the study session. He said he has encouraged city staff “to be as supportive and flexible as we possibly can within reason.”
The mayor added at the meeting, “It feels to me like it is a small concession to make for a limited window of time for us to allow these businesses to operate this way.”
During the study session, Councilmember Margaret Rog had suggested an extension to Nov. 1 instead of Oct. 1.
“There are some beautiful days in October,” Rog said.
However, Councilmember Rachel Harris favored the Oct. 1 end date instead, calling the two-month extension period “generous.”
If the council extended the period to Nov. 1, businesses might argue that the weather would already be turning cold and thus the city should extend the policy into the winter, Harris opined.
Dumalag added, “It’s one less month of inconvenience for some neighbors in certain neighborhoods.”
Others, like Councilmembers Larry Kraft and Nadia Mohamed, said they did not have a preference before Rog suggested Oct. 15 as a compromise. Spano directed staff to pick a date, leading to the Oct. 1 date in the resolution that the council then voted to approve.
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