To a starving dog, even a bone looks like a full supper dish.
So it wasn’t surprising last week when there was a lot of tail-wagging up and down Main Street and throughout the city when Mayor Cory Mason, the city clerk and the Racine Public Health Department announced they would waive city fees for sidewalk cafes and allow them to expand citywide.
The initial financial impact is not that great — it spares restaurants and cafes a permit fee of $100 or $125 when it includes alcohol service.
The real benefit is that it expands seating for those businesses by allowing them to set up chairs and tables out on the sidewalk, and that’s no small deal for restaurants that have had to push some tables into storage in order to comply with safe social distancing guidelines for their customers in their inside dining areas.
More tables mean more customers and more customers mean more revenues for both the restaurant owners and the servers — many of whom are still starving from the effects of the COVID-19 stay at home orders that shuttered their business or forced them to do carry-out only for more than two months this spring.
“We welcome residents to visit Downtown in a safe, fresh air environment. These small business owners need your support more than ever before,” said Kelly Kruse, executive director of Downtown Racine Corp.
That view was echoed by Corey Oakland, co-owner of Red Onion Café, 555 Main St., who said it would allow the café to expand from its two-table private outdoor patio to allow café seating along the public sidewalk in front of the Johnson Bank building.
“I think it’s great — anything that we can do to make people feel more comfortable with going to a restaurant and coming Downtown,” he said. “Business is not coming back as quickly as it went away.”
Plus, Oakland noted, the bustling of a sidewalk café “creates that visual that makes people … want to join in and be part of that.”
Kimyron Bonner, owner of Mrs. Betty’s Kitchen, 327 Main St., shared that view and said. “It’s great the city is doing that to help the businesses. It’s a good thing.”
Indeed it is. And that good thing will now be expanded to other parts of the city as well — hopefully bringing the clink of glasses, the clatter of tableware and the ringing of cash registers to restaurants that are fighting to recover from the coronavirus downturn.
“We welcome residents to visit Downtown in a safe, fresh air environment. These small business owners need your support more than ever before.” Kelly Kruse, executive director of Downtown Racine Corp.
“We welcome residents to visit downtown in a safe, fresh air environment. These small business owners need your support more than ever before.”
— Kelly Kruse, executive director of Downtown Racine Corp.
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