Let’s crowdsource Northfield’s sidewalk dining scene

HideAway Coffeehouse and Winebar

I noticed that the HideAway Coffeehouse and Winebar put out its tables and chairs this weekend so it seems a good time to revisit the issue of sidewalk dining in Northfield (that’s a Tag link to all our blog posts on the subject since 2006.)

Plus, there are two more Division St. eating/dining establishments opening this year.

I blogged last November that “Northfield’s sidewalk dining ordinance has been in effect since early 2008 but only one establishment has taken advantage of the alcohol clause: the HideAway Coffeehouse and Winebar. Five others have not. It might be helpful to find out why.”

Ross sent me a link a week ago to a blog called cooltownstudios that has a series of posts on outdoor cafe districts. (The blog is part of the bigger CreativeCrowdSource project.)

One of those blog posts is titled How to crowdsource an outdoor cafe district and it links to a forum thread on related attempts.  The overview of how to do it:


Pre-Phase. Start with identifying what kind of outdoor cafe scene to crowdsource, whether it’s a walk, alley, square, stage row, or even plaza if you’re the ‘change the world’ type. Or a convergence of two or three types.

Phase I. Develop a defined vision based on the previous phase to attract a beta community of 500 supporters of people who would frequent such a place if it were built. You can build this through monthly events or gatherings, or just a strong campaign. Ideally, the regular events would be held on the proposed site.

Phase II. Identify either an anchor or lead restaurant/cafe/coffeehouse business willing to be the first recipient of the beta community’s energy, such as with Elements in Washington DC. It’s not a hard sell, considering you’re asking a business owner if he/she is willing to have the community ensure an established customer base before opening day.

Phase III. Here’s the fun part. Now that you’ve got a participating business as a precedent and a growing beta community (0.5-1% of the city proper population is effective), you now have Long Tail leverage to present the same opportunity to a collective of businesses around a compelling outdoor cafe space that is positioned to become a cultural destination and institution in the city. Not only that, but this also provides significant momentum to secure support from the local government in terms of helping fund the public space itself.


  1. Griff Wigley said:

    I somehow missed Kiffi Summa’s comment last Nov. so I’m reposting it here:

    Griff: Why does this have to go on and on, as if it has never been discussed before?

    The reason people do not take advantage of the outside dining ordinance is that when they get the papers/applications, they say “**** that” and then just don’t even apply.  It is simply too burdensome for the return.

    A downtown work group tried to get this in place for years against monumental staff resistance. When that work group found a ONE sheet of paper model from Webster Groves , MO, that consisted of guidelines on one side, and application on the other, the NF version …provided by staff… was I believe, a Five page ordinance, and a Three page application.

    I remember  Mr. O’Connell being asked  in a council meeting about the Webster Groves version; his reply : Ours is almost as short…

    How many years do you expect people to keep hitting their heads against the yellow brick wall?

    April 19, 2010
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi, I’m not sure the form is too burdensome. I’ll check with Jim and Joan, tho.

    April 19, 2010
  3. Ross Currier said:

    Gosh Griff –

    I’ve always wanted to crowd-source something. It’s such a pure form of democracy, with the determined decentralization of decision-making, that its opponents might call it anarchism.

    Wikipedia uses more positive semantics, such as “community-based design” and “distributed participatory design”. It’s ultimately recognized as “leveraging the mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 to achieve business goals”.

    I would suggest that in Northfield, we might not have to start with a blank slate. As you noted, the HideAway has been showing us the way for several years now.

    Perhaps this “Beta Community” of 500 supporters might share what they like about the HideAway’s sidewalk dining and if there’s anything that might be improved. This information would be available for the surrounding businesses and might be inspiring to other would-be sidewalk café entrepreneurs.

    Personally, I think the next objective would be the creation of additional sidewalk dining opportunities. If the ultimate goal is to develop a regional destination, I believe that the more sidewalk vitality we have in Northfield, the greater the awareness of our community’s attractive energy.
    .-= (Ross Currier is a blogger. See a recent post titled New Moon Trio Highlight of this Weekend) =-.

    April 19, 2010
  4. Arlen Malecha said:

    I think it would be great to have sidewalk dining all up and down Division St. Omaybe on certain Friday and/or Saturday nights, Division St. could be closed off from second to fifth street between the huors of 5:00 – 8:00 and there could be some sort of art or musical venue held in the street.

    Of course this might cause a few parking issues. But I think those issues can be worked out.

    April 19, 2010

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