Sidewalk dining on Division St: two ways to do it

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I was in Duluth last weekend and happened to walk by a Green Mill restaurant in Canal Park. Their outdoor dining area (left and left center photos) sits on a sidewalk that’s approximately 14 feet wide, the same width as the sidewalk on the east side of Division, south of 4th St. (right center). So it seems to me that Hogan Brothers, James Gang HideAway, and Rueb ‘n’ Stein could all accommodate a similar sidewalk dining area. The sidewalk across the street (west side of Division, south of 4th) is about a foot narrower, but that still seems to be enough room, should the VFW or others want to do it. However, the Division St. sidewalk north of 4th St (right photo) on both sides is about 10 feet wide, and therefore might be too narrow to support this type of sidewalk dining. Sooooo….

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I’d like to see the new sidewalk dining ordinance that Ross Currier and colleagues at the NDDC are working on allow restaurant owners the option to place a removable structure for sidewalk dining in the street in front of their business. (The photos above are from Levanto, Italy, where Robbie and I visited a couple years ago.) There will soon be four restaturants in this area of downtown that might be interested in doing this.

Imagine if Northfield became known far and wide because of its culture of sidewalk dining. Good for tourism, good for residents.


  1. John Thomas said:

    I think a MUCH better idea, would be to give the downtown back to its residents on the weekends.

    How about blocking Division off from Fifth to Fourth, and Fourth to Third from 5 PM Friday to Noon on Sunday? (Fourth would still be open, unless there was a large scale gathering on Bridge Square.)

    Allow resturants to place seating on the street, and turn the whole downtown into pedestrian friendly shopping, dining, and socializing?

    We could even allow kids to play “hopscotch” on Division.

    Take the model of the “Taste of Northfield”, but expand it and make it pedestrian friendly. Make the downtown a place where a family can go on the weekend.

    The downtown (and the public at large) needs to escape its fixation with the motor vehicle.

    Griff, I like your idea, but as soon as I am on the street dining, and a semi-tractor /trailer comes by, it destroys the whole experience.

    Making Downtown a NO TRUCKS area would be helpful. Also, what about the noisy motor cycles?

    I am all for outside dining, as long as it is smoke and noise free, family friendly (you can still have wine, etc), and does not impede pedestrian flow.


    July 8, 2007
  2. John Thomas said:

    That should have read “5 PM Friday to Noon on Sunday”.

    July 8, 2007
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    John, I think the new law prohibiting indoor smoking could be an impetus to more outdoor dining, so I disagree with you on that. I’m guessing some restaurants would still opt to have their outdoor dining areas be non-smoking.

    As for noisy vehicles, I think if we had more outdoor dining areas (with local restaurant owners invested in making it work) then there’d be a greater likelihood that efforts would be made to address the noise problem.

    As for shutting downtown to vehicles on weekends, it might eventually work but I think it’s going to take many small steps to get there. Without the support of downtown business owners, it wouldn’t have much of a chance.

    July 8, 2007
  4. Joan Wicklund said:

    What a super idea!

    July 10, 2007
  5. Mary Rossing said:

    A downtown business weighing in: My business (Present Perfect) depends on the weekend traffic which consists of out of town visitors as well as Northfield residents. Though pedestrian “malls” seem wonderful and peaceful, they are terrible for business. We need to load and unload merchandise and customers all day. We also depend on curb appeal for passersby who will stop their car or motorcycle if they see something interesting. Sidewalk, alley, and deck dining are great and should be pursued, and of course some more evening street events, but closing off Division all weekend is not a viable idea. Sorry. As for outdoor dining, we already have a few establishments that have great decks and patios (though more would be great!), and there are numerous places to picnic around the downtown so getting a sandwhich to go and eating down by the river are delightful options. (A noontime sandwhich cart might do well on Bridge Square, as well as vendors with fresh take and eat items a la farmers markets in other cities–homemade soups, salads, wraps, fruit kabobs, breads, sweets,etc.) The idea is to add more, not take away the traffic!

    July 11, 2007
  6. John Thomas said:


    I see where you are coming from, but trust me, traffic doing 30 MPH on Division is not looking left and right to see whats interesting.

    I am all about driving traffic by your business. That is my point. The point is, we need a draw to get people downtown, then WALK by your windows, see something interesting, come in, and make a purchase.

    I love your business, and I am in there often. It is the #1 place I go for gifts. However, I can tell you that I have NO IDEA what new items you might have by driving by on Division during the day.

    I would need to be able to walk by, and walk in.

    As for the loading and unloading, I would have to agree, but if I am not mistaken, you have 2 entrances?

    I will agree that 5 PM Friday to Noon on Sunday is a bit extreme, but I said that to emphasize a point. It would be nice to see more “Crazy Days” types of events, where folks are drawn to downtown, but do not need to compete with vehiclar traffic. I think that a couple of hours on Friday evening might be interesting?

    I am sure that if you sold a huge item, or if Swag sold a huge steel elephant or some other art piece, that allowances could be made to let the customer access for a few minutes to pick up the item, etc.

    I am very pro-business, very pro-downtown, pro-family, and pro-pedestrian.

    I am wondering how the Division street closure impacted business. I still see a lot of vehicles on Divsion.

    About the Farmers Market… I would LOVE to see it move closer to downtown, maybe even to the parking lot by the post office/liquor store. Anything to draw folks downtown.

    I challenge Ross and the NDDC to “get hot” and try to get more of these events in. Taste of Northfield is a great idea!

    My personal perception is that SOME Northfield business owners are a stubborn, fickle bunch, and do not want to play well with others. Ross’s job of trying to unify them to a common good is like herding cats… Its a tough thing.

    Another thing that really torques me is the “take-over” of downtown during DJJD days. I see that as a VERY anti-business event. Downtown pretty much closes. That is a shame, as well as another rant I will have to post later. Just one thing about it, I feel that Northfield based vendors should first oppurtunity for booth space and a discounted fee rate as a vendor. Keep some of the money locally.

    More later. Thanks…


    July 12, 2007
  7. kiffi summa said:

    Mary is absolutely correct on the issue of closing Division Street. As much as we all long to have “fun” in our downtown, you have to remember that it is first, and foremost, an economic entity. Nothing should be done that would threaten any portion of those economics.

    Most people don’t realize that many, many, if not most, of the deliveries by large truck, that come to the stores on Division Street, come to those stores through their front doors, ON Division street. That is the only access.

    Can you imagine if the truck which will deliver the new Harry Potter books to River City Books could not get to the front door (it can’t get to the back door) , and therefore refused to deliver???
    A frightening sight……400 children, marching down Division street, ALL of them with livid thunderbolts on their foreheads! Scary!

    A much better solution to the downtown experience is “furnishing” the Riverwalk with seating, benches , chairs and tables, even some chess/checker tables. For 20/30 years, it has been like an empty room; nice picture outside the big window…….but only a few low stone walls on which to sit, like birds on a telephone wire. I’m very sorry that no $$ for seating on the Riverwalk were included in the streetscape plan.

    We talk so much about the river as an amenity, but in reality, as a city expenditure policy, it just seems to be regarded as everyones back door.

    July 13, 2007
  8. John S. Thomas said:

    Again, I think the point is being missed. I am not about “threatening” the economics of downtown.

    What I perceve is a COMPLETE UNWILLINGNESS by anyone to change anything, but yet everyone is screaming that the downtown has no viability, and nothing to draw folks downtown.

    We need to scrap that mentality, and start thinking outside the box, about what can be done to continue to improve downtown. The status quo will no longer cut it.

    The NDDC cannot spoonfeed the businesses and drag customers kicking and screaming with full wallets into downtown on thier own. It takes a team, and I still sense anarchy downtown. No one seems to want to leverage technology or plan and utilize a collective marketing strategy. There is so much more that could be done!

    As for the pedestrian model, I do not know how many of you have visited St. Paul, but I was thinking more along the line of the 7th Place model.

    This is a pedestrian mall, that is done in cobblestone pavers. Great Waters, Wyld Times, and others have outdoor patios on it.

    Delivery trucks are allowed access up until 10:30 AM.

    There is a very successful farmers market that runs here 2 days per week.

    There is LOADS of pedestrian traffic.

    Also, if you review my above posts, I am looking for LIMITED closures as a starting point. I am fairly confidant that not many deliveries are not taking place on weekend evenings.

    I also agree with the furnishings, although that is only one part of the entire plan that needs to be addressed as a team. There are still issues about policing, lighting, and adding more foot traffic. If we could draw more foot traffic to the Riverwalk, then there would be less issues in the area, because there would be more eyeballs about. The reason you have issues now, is because it is dark, and not well travelled after the sun goes down.

    The area between the river and Division between 2nd and 4th could be so much more. The problem is, there is a “black hole” back there from where the Cow is, until you clear the steps on fourth. Nothing is facing the river, and there is no draw there, except to sneak around in the dark and do things your not supposed to be doing.

    I would love to see some sort of “anchor” business where the Carlson (?) property is with the deck above the Riverwalk on Bridge Square. Someone once told me this was a resturant space at one time?

    A more effective mix of “drawing” businesses downtown, with support, and different hours of operation will generate a different vibe. It cannot all be antique stores open on Saturdays, or late night pizza joints and pubs.

    It just seems that the Riverwalk is so underutilized. I only seem to see it busy and used during the DJJD art show.

    There is no reason that we could not do more of those. Someting like the FANTASTIC winter festival that downtown does, but in the summer. Something more leisurely than the crush of food vendor booths of DJJD.

    I would love to see lots of little events going on down there all the time. Folks coming down to play music, small performances, people painting, an outdoor wine and cheese tasting, crafts shows, etc.

    Get something set up, so that it is ongoing, such as a something that happens the third saturday of the month during the summer, that draws folks from the surrounding area. (craft show, etc.)

    Thanks for the lunchtime rant. I hope some of this makes sense.


    July 13, 2007
  9. kiffi summa said:

    John: Nobody thinks you’re “threatening” the economics of the downtown……. I thought there was a discussion of ideas here for what might be further development of the downtown as an entertainment resource for both local residents and visitors.

    You’re right that there could be a lot of disparate increments of “bread and circuses” that would provide a much broader experience. I’m just advocating for that development to happen on the Riverwalk, and in all sorts of little under-utilized spaces, rather than primarily on Division Street.
    We’re a little tight on the permitting/policing side to allow for really experimenting with what works profitably for all concerned; but we need some free-wheeling entrepreneurship (Norman Butler style) to play with some ideas.

    Watch what the NDDC is trying to do with the Outside Dining Ordinance and I hope you enjoy the NDDC’s Taste of Northfield”……… couldn’t agree with you more on the food “mess”” in the square on Jesse James Days. Wouldn’t it be great if that was all local? Be really hard for those folks, though, with the numbers of people served.

    P.S. You have all winter to think of some cool vending cart opportunities on the Riverwalk next summer; you could “retire” !

    July 13, 2007
  10. Joan Wicklund said:

    John: Perhaps when everyone has listed all their “negatives” someone, hopefully a Northfield resident” will actually come up with some “positives” about your great ideas on how to revitalize Northfield’s downtown. When I was an “Ole” I remember a downtown full of interested townies and students and lots of $$ changing hands. Of course, that was in the late 50’s and early 60’s.

    July 13, 2007
  11. Robbie Wigley said:

    Not that long ago… well maybe it was quite a few years ago, the early 80’s… the food booths for Jesse James Days were fund raisers for many local organizations. Prairie Creek sold fabulous cheese cake and it was a community event to make them. Something happened and only a few of the local vendors remain, Lions Club etc.

    July 14, 2007
  12. Mary Rossing said:

    To all the speculation: Anyone who would like to have a food booth at DJJD is welcome to talk to the committee and get involved. It’ s not as if it is a closed circle keeping the locals out, and this assumption is not helpful. The committee is made up of volunteers who work hard to put on an enjoyable and diverse celebration. There are still some vendors that are local and they make good money–others have just burned out and would rather opperate out of their businesses that day or just enjoy the weekend. The non profits also have a hard time getting volunteers. The Rotary runs the bike tour and various organizations help out, and are compensated for garbage duty and pouring beer. My business does moderately well during DJJD, and I enjoy the raid reenactment right outside my door, so don’t assume that the event is bad for business. As with any promotion, just getting new faces in the door is a good thing, and they may decide to come back another time when the crowds have discipated. But it is exhausting.

    As to John’s comments about the NDDC taking the lead on new initiatives downtown like it is a higher power or something. WE are the NDDC, just like WE are the chamber, the Arts Guild, the Historical Society and every other organization working hard to promote business and culture in downtown Northfield. If you would like to pitch in, then I’m sure someone would be happy to plug you in. At various times I have been full of vim and viguor and other times have had to take a step back. So new blood is always welcome. I was renewed this week when Anne Maple, along with her son Paul Carpenter and friend Ben Ludescher agreed to help with a human chess game in the street outside my store. I am still looking for a mad scientist type to come and mix potions on Friday night in my store a la Professor Snape from Harry Potter!! (although I just got a new lead, so if you have other ideas of a character you would like to appear as, give me a holler)

    John, your ideas are good, and I appreciate your support of my business. We have had a hard time getting consistant activities on Bridge Square because of who has been handling the scheduling, but I am working with a group to rectify this for summer of 2008. If your organization would like to coordinate a Thursday evening or Saturday morning event, please let me know! We want to bring back things that got dropped, and also add fresh new things to the mix–it all takes people willing to pull it together.

    It is just in the last 5 years that we have had a 4th of July Celebration, thanks to the Historical Society and now others have stepped up to help. The Taste of Northfield is only in its 2nd year, and will be better than ever. River City Books has coordinated the Harry Potter event, and the Arts Guild and NDDC are working on Arts Swirl. Look at the amazing success of the Girl’s Night Out! That was the retailers working together on a fabulous event. But more is better, and consistancy will give us something to market! It’s hard to market air. If we can say that there is something going on every Saturday and Thursday night during the summer that would be fabulous. I invite EVERYONE that cares about downtown to get involved. I don’t think we are set in our ways and unwilling to change. As an individual business I do what I can and have energy for. We need your help. Ask not what downtown can do for you…

    July 14, 2007
  13. Jerry Bilek said:

    I’ll take up the contrarian point of view with John. I agree Division st could be largely closed to auto traffic. State st in Madison, High st in Edinburgh, Nicollet in mpls. It has helped, rather than hurt, those areas. Most allow morning deilveries like John mentioned. This works as most delivery trucks are here and gone by 11:00 am.

    I would like to see 3rd to 5th closed, allowing cross traffic at 4th. close water from the post office to 4th and expand bridge square. Allow street vendors on Bridge square like the popcorn cart, artists, performers, musicians etc. do something to ames park. a foot bridge could connect it to briodge square.

    I believe if you give people a reason to come downtown, they will respond positively. It is the kind of thing that can be done on a trial basis. every saturday in July as an experiment.

    July 14, 2007
  14. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Nfld News:

    Sidewalk dining may be next step for downtown

    Last year, the NDDC was very close to proposing a dining ordinance, but the proposal got dropped by local business owners, he said. This summer, however, citizens started addressing the issue again. “Griff Wigley started discussing it on Locally Grown,” said Currier. “And everyone agreed it’s a good idea.”

    Thanks to Ross for the quote. And a BIG thanks to the reporter, Stephanie Soucheray, for including it and her editor for allowing it.

    July 14, 2007
  15. John S. Thomas said:

    I don’t get it…

    Last year, the NDDC was very close to proposing a dining ordinance, but the proposal got dropped by local business owners, he said…

    I thought the NDDC was the group spearheading the cause on behalf of the business owners. Isn’t that part of NDDC’s charter, to bring things before the City Council to make the Downtown better?

    I must be confused. Who is sheparding the cause on behalf of the downtown? The NDDC? The EDC? The business owners?

    I just see it as a downtown cause, and one that an organization should take on, rather than selective business owners. A single loud voice is sometimes better than a couple intermitant squeeky ones in my opinion.

    Keep up the good work Ross. I was just wondering who was carrying the flag on getting this done now.


    July 16, 2007
  16. kiffi summa said:

    There’s not much to champion in the way of outdoor eating and drinking. See, here’s the deal.

    When the NDDC says “outside dining spearheaded by local business dealers” and “proposal got dropped by local business owners” you’ve got to calculate who that might be?

    One or two hands are enough. Chapati and the Tavern? Neither is a good candidate for sidewalk dining. Tavern’s got its patio and its lounge with that deck. Chapati has its porch. The Cow has a deck that is the spot to be in the summer, but private… no need for the sidewalk deal. Froggy Bottoms tried for two years and evidently it didn’t work out dollar wise ( dropping the ball?) Additionally, Froggy didn’t really have legitimate sidewalk frontage. What they used was River Walk area that should have been available to the Key for its summer programs… and perhaps Basil’s Pizza’s space. So far, no real players.

    Moving back to Division Street, you’ve got Blue monday with a handful of theater seats in a row along a narrow sidewalk. Tiny’s has no interest in outdoor service (it seems)… and further down Division Street you come to: Hogans and the Hideaway… servicing both on a appropriate sized sidewalk… but evidently not too much interest in serving and servicing patrons outside (Does that qualify for ball-dropping?)

    Then there’s the Rube. Situated on a corner with big sidewalks on both sides. But not too active in pursuit of the diners in the sun. Why? Don’t know… but I believe that’s it, for food businesses who might pursue outside customers. Oh, there’s B & L Pizza. Irony! Thats’ the location used by the Northfield News News for a photo example of outside dining.. Ironically, that’s not on a sidewalk… that too is their private patio. So, don’t blame the NDDC. There’s not much to champion in the way of outdoor eating and drinking wannabes.

    The NDDC is bringing its effort to bear on the Council… but don’t expect a lot of eateries to step up to the plate and pursue outside dining. This is not Palm Beach.

    Other than that both Mary and John have made good points. It might be worth it to pursue this thread.

    July 17, 2007
  17. victor summa said:

    well I guess I messed that up. Didn’t replace Kiffi with Vici so the missus will get the credit or the blame for the previous remarks..


    July 17, 2007
  18. Griff Wigley said:

    It’s time for my annual push to get sidewalk dining (with liquor) to be happening up and down Division St. downtown this year.

    For more background, read the above blog post/comments, the blog post/discussion from June ’07, Ross’ July 1 ’07 NDDC post, and the Nfld News article from July 14 ’07 which said:

    Pokorney and Currier hope to introduce the ordinance, drafted in mid-June, to the city council in the coming weeks. It could be on the council’s agenda by August and then possibly passed in September, said Pokorney.

    February 11, 2008
  19. John S. Thomas said:

    I grabbed a quick list of eateries off of the Visiting Northfield site, so I could do some free thinking here… Here is a list, and what I believe their situation to be:

    B & L Pizza
    – has beer and wine, has full service outdoor seating

    Basil’s Pizza Palace
    – has beer and wine, NO outdoor seating

    Chapati – A Taste of India
    – has beer and wine, has porch

    Froggy Bottoms River Pub & Suites
    – has beer and wine, has full service outdoor deck seating

    J. Grundy’s Rueb-N-Stein
    – has beer and wine, NO outdoor seating

    The Tavern of Northfield
    – has beer and wine, has full service outdoor seating

    Bittersweet Eatery and Gathering Place
    – no beer or wine, NO outdoor seating

    The Contented Cow
    – has beer and wine, has drink service outdoor seating

    Erbert & Gerberts Subs and Clubs
    – no beer or wine, did they ever build their deck?

    Goodbye Blue Monday Coffee House
    – no beer or wine, limited outdoor seats

    Hogan Brothers’ Acoustic Café
    – has beer and wine, has had self service tables outdoors

    The Hideaway
    – has beer and wine, has had self service tables outdoors

    Quality Bakery and Coffee Shop
    – inside service only.

    Sweet Lou’s Waffle Bar
    – no outside service

    Tiny’s Dogs All Day
    – no beer or wine, has had self service tables outdoors

    From this unscientific list, you have to wonder then, who stands to benefit from this? So I look at the list, and I come up with this off the top of my head:

    1. Basil’s Pizza Palace – IF they wanted to, where would they place it? There is very little room, maybe two tables in front, and very high traffic area. Close proximity to the Key is possible limiting factor.

    2. Chapati – A Taste of India – is their porch considered sidewalk, or an extension of their business space? Are they allowed alcohol outside now?

    3. Froggy Bottoms River Pub & Suites – I am sure they would love to leverage more of the riverwalk on an ongoing basis, because they may feel that their deck space is limited.

    4. J. Grundy’s Rueb-N-Stein – I am really unsure on this one. They already have a tremendous amount of space, and multiple accesses. Maybe a small area on 5th, but it has limited visibility from inside the restaurant, and could be difficult to monitor. You may be able to do it by blocking off an area, and use the door directly onto the corner for access into the outdoor dining area.

    5. VFW – I read this one, but I do not understand. Is this a restaurant? They have occasional meals, but their primary function is to serve alcohol. How does this fit?

    All of the rest, seem like small scale places that are really not full service, and seem space constrained, so the liability would be more than the benefit of the two or three tables.

    I guess what I am thinking, is that there are really only a few business owners pushing for this as a viable business proposition. It appears to me, that these folks would be Froggy’s, Norm with Chapati & the Cow, and The Reub.

    Who am I missing? Does this ordinance truly benefit downtown, or only a few select business owners?

    I am also concerned, that because of the smoking laws, that these areas will become sidewalk based designated smoking areas.

    I think outdoor dining on the sidewalks is a great idea. Do we have to complicate it by adding in alcohol?

    I’m just curious. I don’t completely understand the motivation, so I hope that by discussing it further, I can learn more.


    February 11, 2008
  20. If you want outdoor dining and smoking, get something to go and haul your
    stuff over to the river and have a lovely day.

    February 12, 2008
  21. Tracy Davis said:

    John, my take on it is that outdoor dining can be part and parcel of increasing downtown vitality. The fact that a few businesses are better positioned to take advantage of it doesn’t concern me at all – the opportunity has the potential for benefiting all the hospitality businesses, not to mention their customers.

    February 12, 2008
  22. kiffi summa said:

    Watch out folks…….. We’re headed for another rental ordinance “debacle”.
    Last night at council work session, the sidewalk use issue came back, and instead of being the sidewalk DINING issue it has now grown , just like Topsy, into a full blown “Sidewalk Sales and Service” ordinance.
    (So Ross, all your last summer’s work/research on sidewalk dining ordinances from other communities seems to be residing in the “round file”).
    So instead of Mr. Pokorney’s just unfulfilled prediction of something by Sept/2007, we are headed off into the sunset accompanied by talk of food permits, “stuff”permits(Books, etc), vendor permits, performing artist permits …….. I kid you not; there was talk of jugglers and fire-eaters……. and I think we may be able to expect a workable ordinance in just about half the time it takes a balloon vendor to drift from here to Alpha Centauri.
    Oh, I almost forgot……there was talk of all permits needing to be to locals, i.e. no out-of-towners allowed……. so do we have any juggling sword swallowers out there?

    February 12, 2008
  23. Griff Wigley said:

    New Ulm Journal: Bars will be able to serve alcohol on sidewalks in front of their businesses.

    By RON LARSEN, Journal Staff Writer

    NEW ULM — Bar operators now will be able to serve alcoholic beverages on the sidewalks in front of their establishments as a result of action taken by the New Ulm City Council Tuesday.

    However, it took a little while for the council to reach a consensus on how the proposal would be regulated.

    In introducing the agenda item, City Manager Brian Gramentz noted “there are two issues involved. One is structures — tables and chairs — in the city right-of-way, meaning sidewalks, in front of the businesses, and the second is extending the liquor license into the same [seating] area.”

    When it was suggested that these areas be fenced in, Mayor Joel Albrecht countered: “I think a 4-inch-wide strip [of paint] on the sidewalk would accomplish the same thing.”

    However, Police Chief Erv Weinkauf worried that his officers wouldn’t be able to see the strips in order to determine if there were a violation.

    However, City Attorney Hugh Nierengarten told the chief that “if the liquor license is extended out to the sidewalk, that becomes the premises. Councilors finally agreed that a fence was preferable and glass and servers should be allowed. The regulations also will restrict tables and chairs to not extend more than 48 inches into the right-of-way.

    “This allows a 5-foot walkway for pedestrian use and complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Gramentz said.

    “This isn’t a blanket situation. [Operators] will have to come to the council to obtain it [authorization to extend out into the right-of-way],” Nierengarten said.

    February 14, 2008
  24. Ross Currier said:

    Hey Griff:

    This is of great and timely interest to Northfield.

    Perhaps Brett Reese could take Jim Pokorney on a Road Trip to New Ulm.

    If they take the tour at Schell, we might have a done deal.

    Thanks much,


    February 14, 2008
  25. Griff Wigley said:

    New Ulm City Manager Brian Gramentz replied to my email request for more info:

    We require a physical barrier if alcohol is served. I have attached the Minneapolis sidewalk cafe info and the issue sheet I presented to the City Council when the issue was on the agenda… At this time, no one has requested authorization to have a sidewalk cafe in New Ulm. I suspect that the requests will come this Spring. You will see that we have two sections on our policy. One with alcohol and one without.

     I converted the Word docs Brian sent me to PDFs:

    February 15, 2008
  26. Griff Wigley said:

    I still think we should test allowing a restaurant to install removable structure for sidewalk dining in the street in front of their business… like this one.


    How about it, Sprazzo? Hogan Bros? Hideaway?

    February 15, 2008
  27. John S. Thomas said:

    Looking over those standards, I think I could support them as they stand. It looks like they spent a lot of time on it.

    Time to get the City to look at it.

    P.S. I don’t think the RiverWalk for Froggy’s would meet the standards in those documents, correct?

    February 15, 2008
  28. Anne Bretts said:

    I like the idea of doing a test this summer, allowing business owners to try out lots of options, with the NDDC and police monitoring and documenting them. At the end of the summer city officials can review the various ordinances around the area, review how things worked here over the summer, and then come up with an ordinance over the winter.
    It also would be good to review how businesses are displaying merchandise on the sidewalk. Some displays are attractive, while others are pretty junky. This may not be an ordinance issue as much as a peer pressure issue.

    February 15, 2008
  29. This sort of humorous quote popped up in a window while I was surfing a little while ago, but I couldn’t remember the author’s name with initials A.T., maybe Alfred something, but it goes something like this…
    The reason Americans are so productive is because there is no place to sit.

    This figures into my anti booze and smoke and blocking nuisance sidewalk seating objection as I can argue that sitting is keeping the people from going about buying stuff from other vendors.

    Then, I ran into this quote, which I like even more;

    “I love blackjack. But I’m not addicted to gambling.
    I’m addicted to sitting in a semi circle.” and I would add “outdoors”

    Mitch Hedberg

    Too many people are sitting around outdoors eating and drinking and ignoring nature and getting to know our earth better. Many more
    people are concerned about the economy over environment by like
    20 to 1. They seem to want to prefer to dwell in pollution, both
    inner and outer. Bah. Sure, wine is being touted as good heart food,
    tell you what, grapes have the same benefits without the Alzheimers.

    February 18, 2008
  30. Griff Wigley said:

    Yay! In today’s Nfld News: Outdoor dining returns to council. That really should be titled ‘sidewalk dining with alcohol’ since dining outdoors and some dining on sidewalks has been permitted.

    The city council Monday will discuss a draft ordinance that, if approved, would allow restaurants to serve food and alcoholic beverages on city sidewalks. But while the proposed ordinance allows eateries to expand their service area, hours of operation would be restricted from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The ordinance also ensures three and a half feet of space on the sidewalk remains for pedestrians.

    March 22, 2008
  31. John S. Thomas said:

    What is the average width of a downtown sidewalk? 6 Feet?

    March 22, 2008
  32. John S. Thomas said:

    Disregard, I re-read the article.

    I think this is a good thing, but I would only be concerned that it is implemented in such a way that downtown does not become an obstacle course, having to dodge trees, tree grates, newspaper boxes, and bike poles.

    Also, I hope that this is not leveraged into a way to allow outdoor smoking areas.

    I walked by the VFW the other day. They have a couple of plastic chairs, and a smokers bucket thing. It looks truly nasty, and not all the butts are making it into the jug.

    I would love to see the ordinance specify that these outdoor areas continue to remain non-smoking to protect the public health.

    March 22, 2008
  33. John S. Thomas said:

    Another thing I wanted to bring up…

    Is the space that the Print shop vacated in the Schriever building still open?

    It would be a wonderful space for the NDDC, The Chamber, and a bunch of other folks to collaborate on, and open a tourist information center / shared space / meeting space. It has access to Bridge Square, Downtown, and would be a great stable resource for tourists and others. It could be a one stop place to go for any information about Northfield and the surrounding area.

    Staffing responsibility could be shared by each organization, as well as volunteers from the Senior Center and other organizations that could become ambassadors.

    In order to make it financially viable, more “Locally Grown” Northfield area gift items could be sold there. You could have products in there, that have signage that says, “This product available at Present Perfect, and give the address downtown…” You could have an alternating display of downtown business products in the window that changes out every couple of weeks.

    Folks could stop for information, it would be easier to find, and it would be DOWNTOWN.

    Just my $0.02. I think it would be a great idea, and a nice anchor point. You could park a nice bike rack in front of it, and it would become a stopping point on the trail.

    March 22, 2008
  34. Griff Wigley said:

    John, the sidewalk widths vary. For example, on Division between 3rd and 4th, the width of the east sidewalk is about 10 ft; west is about 9ft. Between 4th and 5th, east is about 13 ft, west about 12 ft.

    March 24, 2008
  35. Griff Wigley said:

    John, I don’t see anything in the proposed ordinance about smoking. Since smoking is currently allowed on sidewalks, in public parks and on other outdoor public property, I’m assuming the ordinance would have to expressly forbid it.

    I hate cigarette smoke as much as anyone but I’d prefer to have it be allowed in outdoor dining venues in order to help get sidewalk dining firmly established downtown. If it takes hold, then maybe the ordinance could be amended to allow a proprietor the choice on whether to allow smoking or not.

    March 24, 2008
  36. John Thomas said:


    I would have to disagree. Outdoor smoking would have a NEGATIVE impact to outdoor dining venues. It is not needed. It will keep families away.

    Smoking draws a BAR crowd, not a dining crowd.

    I am all for outdoor DINING… Not so much for outdoor smoking and public intoxication. This is fine for an outdoor deck, or something that is segregated, but not for right out on the sidewalk in downtown.

    March 24, 2008
  37. John Thomas said:

    Ok, I went and read over the ordinance.

    Since this is an extension of the premises, and the premises by law is non-smoking, wouldn’t the outdoor area therefore have to be non-smoking?

    Does anyone have a legal opinion?

    Of course, this would be much different than an outdoor area that is fully enclosed such as the patio at Froggy’s, or the area that B&L has.

    March 24, 2008
  38. Griff Wigley said:

    While we wait for any one of several attorneys that LoGroNo has on retainer to reply to your inquiry, John, did anyone attend last’s night’s work session and have a report on the discussion?

    March 25, 2008
  39. victor summa said:

    Yeah, I attended – Surprised?

    The good news: Council and Staff are dealing w/this question on a “fast track” as the EDA and NDDC both weighed in to that effect, citing the need for action to effect this summer’s dining opportunities.

    The bad news: The language is lengthy –wordy and has included a variety of poorly thought-out tenets that may not bode well for the users (food service businesses).

    Remember there are three entities impacted: a) The Broad Citizenry. b) the smaller customer group. c) the businesses trying to survive in a dog eat man society!

    Since Griff linked to the Draft Text, many of you might have viewed it.

    i’ll point out a few problems (MY opines)

    Before I go there though, let me add, the discussion (and that’s what it was) was … reasonably complete. The problems are:

    (1) the “principle players” should be invited to the table for these kinds of discussions. They, far more than the elected officials, can sort through the language and cite problem phrases. A reality check as it were. Staff and Council should listen.

    (2) Staff, (not always, and not all of it) usually come down on the side of protecting their turf in issues of this nature.

    Turf? Yeah, their jobs, their authority, their stronger position with the council than the public’s … and disdain for those the regulations might impact!

    And the overarching reality: Council relationship with its staff, from time to time, morphs from complicity to adversity … depending on a Councilor’s individual perspective — expert in the field or not … and, effected by constituent’s calls … or not.

    It unfortunately almost always comes down to a “pissing contest”

    And then you’ve got the Local Groan. Awk!

    So here’s my brief view of the verbiage thus far.


    a) It is draft form

    b) The council gave Staff some change perspective. Staff will work with that.

    c) Staff brought out of “moth balls” Maren Swanson’s text from the temporary accommodations of Froggy Bottoms a few years back (Evidently an economic failure)

    d) There are too many accommodations to the regulatory nature — conversely too few business friendly tenets.

    e) it is better than nothing, especially, as it is in Draft From



    Too many references in the “temporary” nature of the license. This harkens back to Froggy Bottoms fast tracked use as it was validated by the Council for the “up coming season” a few years back.

    Our city council almost always fails in that it is in fear of taking action … thus, it views too many of it’s issue decisions as “temporary fixes” … “Just in case, it doesn’t work out” … e.g. Rental code, Building Code board of Appeals etc. Y think they’d use plastic warp for payment if they could … in case the street wasn’t used fully.

    Also here, by omission, the Draft Text excludes non alcohol serving business from having outside dining rights.

    Also, other than C1 and C2 locations, text fails to reference other locations such as: Ole Store Cafe – or any future Neighborhood Node businesses, and … all of C 3. i.e. Kurry Kabob, Hideaway #1, Apple Bees, Beef O’brady’s

    I’m no fan of C 3 anything, but, discrimination is discrimination .. and the birth place of law suits!

    Draft text also includes text: Temporary expansion area[s] defined as Public Property – including Public Sidewalks. (??)

    I thought it was generically referred to as a sidewalk cafe. Does this mean they including: Parking Lots? Alleys? Streets? [on streets, read Mary Rossing earlier, this thread ]

    Numbered item (3) – really vague reference to building owners “consent”

    Numbered item (7) – an insane access and egress provision

    Numbered item (13) – language that limits DT business from outdoor dining privileges during DJJD..

    NOTE: This is odd in that the Froggy Bottoms License was allowed specifically so that FB might take advantage of the DJJD business spike

    That’s it for now, other than there was discussion of the smoking prohibition; Was it in effect or not? Taken under advisement.

    My thoughts on this are most proprietors will not allow this in their very tight dining spaces outside. It is offensive … even in the open air. I sat behind a row of Japanese tourists in Wrigley field some years back. They were real smokers … even in the “windy friendly confines of Wrigley it was bad!

    March 25, 2008
  40. John Thomas said:


    I was/am out of town on a vacation, but had contacted our City leadership via e-mail.

    Response was quick, and it appears that the smoking issue was at least discussed and will be reviewed.

    Victor brings up some good points in regards to the draft, and summarized them well.

    Hopefully it will get tightened up and into a usable form pretty quickly.

    March 25, 2008
  41. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for the detailed report, Victor. I need more time to go through all the points you raise. Maybe this should be a topic at an upcoming Politics and a Pint?

    March 26, 2008
  42. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Nfld News: Council supports outdoor dining policy.

    When can we expect this to begin? – The city council asked O’Connell to run the proposed language past the NDDC. With no roadblocks on the horizon, O’Connell believes he can have a fine-tuned proposal back before council by mid-April. If the council approves, the ordinance could be official by June 1, O’Connell said.

    March 26, 2008
  43. Tracy Davis said:

    As a public official, I understand the bogging-down-in-minute-yet-important-details aspect.

    However….. For crying out loud, if the staff and City Council can’t find a way to at least TRY something in Northfield that thousands of communities here and abroad have found a way to do, and which has been discussed every year for the past three years at least, then I really will throw up my hands in disgust. This isn’t rocket science, it’s not particularly complex, there are plenty of precedents for successful sidewalk dining ordinances.

    Really, people, NOTHING BAD will happen if we test this out from June 1 to Oct 1 2008 (or whatever) to work the bugs out. Yeah, it might not work flawlessly, yeah, we might have unanticipated problems, yeah, some people might not be happy, but really… can’t we at least TRY?

    March 26, 2008
  44. Anne Bretts said:

    Tracy, you’re right. Pass a test ordinance, suspend the current ordinances for three months and allow people to munch popcorn and nibble waffles and spill a little nacho sauce on the pavement. Rome has allowed pretty unregulated outdoor dining for thousands of years and the city has survived. Perhaps the NDDC could take the lead in handling comments and complaints, negotiating resolutions and reporting results so a more permanent ordinance can be passed in the fall. Smokers and non-smokers would have to find polite ways to co-exist.
    And perhaps the city could just declare a moratorium on fire-eating until a consultant can do some town meetings and a market study and make a separate draft plan for all outdoor combustion in the business district.

    March 26, 2008
  45. Griff Wigley said:

    And while we’re tackling the smoking issue, how about dogs? Thanks to my main squeeze for the alert to this article in yesterday’s Strib by our colleague, Jon Tevlin: Rover may soon join you at the table – but no begging.

    If a law traveling through the Legislature passes as expected, restaurants and bars with outdoor service may be adding a new item to their menus by May: Kibble. The bill would clarify a now murky, and seldom-enforced, Minnesota Department of Health rule that prohibits pets from any establishment that serves food, either indoors or out.


    March 27, 2008

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