By SUE SUCHYTA
Times Herald Newspapers
DEARBORN – Equipment which the city ordered in December to help restaurants comfortably serve diners outside are being installed in different parts of the city to help maintain pandemic precautions.
Clear plastic igloos, with both electric space heaters and propane-powered heaters, are being set up with a table and chairs for single party dining, and larger tents are being set up outside restaurants as well, as 25 percent capacity dine-in service has been permitted.
Jeffrey Watson, director of Economic and Community Development, said at the city’s Feb. 4 City Council Committee of the Whole meeting that restaurants are working to submit paperwork to city officials to get permits and get agreements signed with the city, which has experienced a learning curve, which they are attempting to alleviate.
“We are working diligently with all of them to make sure they get their paperwork in and so that they can get started up,” he said. “The tents themselves are ready to go, and are awaiting the restaurants to occupy them.”
City Council President Susan Dabaja asked what is being done to help the restaurants in east Dearborn, which are clustered differently that in west Dearborn, along Michigan and Warren avenues.
Watson said both the East and West Dearborn downtown development authorities have approved funding for igloos and possibly greenhouses.
“They have been working with restaurants on both sides to identify folks that are interested in taking advantage of that,” he said.
Dabaja asked what was occurring on Warren Avenue and on the Dix corridor.
Watson said he thinks the best thing to do is supplement what they have already done in terms of funding and recommendations to the city council that they provide an opportunity for businesses to use igloos for outdoor dining.
“The response that we are getting from businesses is that tents don’t work, and they are interested in igloos,” he said.
Dabaja said at the end of 2020, the city council approved the appropriation of about $600,000 of Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act funding, with $500,000 to be used as grant funding for small businesses within the city, whether for micro-enterprises or small businesses, and said that the Economic Development Corporation has been working diligently to put it together.
“Hopefully, we will be opening up that grant application sometime next week,” she said.
Watson said more money will actually be available in terms of business grants.
“Actually $1.3 million are available for those grants,” he said.
Watson said additional money is being made available for eviction and homelessness prevention, as well.
He said applications for the business grants will not be accepted until Wednesday, with the intent being so that there is more time and advanced publicity for people to be made aware of it and for partners, like the chamber of commerce and the DDAs, to inform its members.
Watson said the material needed to complete an application is extensive, due to the fact that federal funds are being utilized, and Housing and Urban Development requirements must be met.
“We are expecting that folks will have sufficient notice to be able to do that,” he said.