By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – Select local restaurants will soon have the option of expanded outdoor seating, thanks to the creation of an Outdoor Seating Platform Program passed at the April 27 City Council meeting.
The resolution, which targets four specific retail areas, takes effect immediately and runs through Oct. 31 in designated secondary streets parking spots adjacent to the restaurants affected.
City Council President Susan Dabaja said the Downtown Development Authority requested that the city council approve the conversion of parking spaces to platform dining in four areas, as part of a pilot project.
The locations include the west side of Monroe Street, north of Michigan Avenue, adjacent to and in partnership with Noah’s Smokehouse, and Cannoli Pastry; the west side of Monroe Street, south of Michigan Avenue, adjacent to and in partnership with the Great Commoner, a boutique break café; the east side of Howard Street, south of Michigan Avenue, adjacent to and in partnership with La Fork, serving poutine, crepes and salads; and the west side of Williamson Street, south of Michigan Avenue, adjacent to and in partnership with Zo’s Good Burger.
“This is an opportunity to support and grow the outdoor dining environment in Dearborn’s downtown, and to create a more walkable and vibrant downtown experience,” Dabaja said. “The DDA is supporting this effort by investing in the platforms, protective bumpers and planter borders, installation and removal, and platform maintenance.”
She said the adjacent restaurants are required to provide the seating and amenities, liability insurance, daily maintenance and outdoor café management of the spaces.
Dabaja said a city of Dearborn outdoor permit will be required for each business, as well as a license agreement with the DDA for the platform provided.
“I think this is a great start,” she said. “We can see how these four parking spots serve as a pilot program, and maybe this will call for an expansion of it.”
Chief of Staff Mark Guido said at the April 20 Mayor’s Briefing that the businesses are very interested in doing this.
“Each of these areas will require taking up two spaces,” he said. “This is a chance to really grow the outdoor dining environment in Dearborn.”
Guido said other local cities, including Milford, have successfully implemented outdoor platform seating in parking spaces.
“Again, this is not a ‘we’ll build it and they’ll come,’” he said. “We have interest, and we will know people are committed, and then we will move forward once we have those commitments in place.”
Guido said that given the nature of Michigan Avenue, which he characterized as “relatively hostile,” the activation of side streets for outdoor dining will communicate a “lively, pedestrian environment,” which he said people enjoy.
Councilman Robert Abraham asked Guido during the briefing if the outdoor dining could eventually become covered and permanent.
Guido said the original intention was seasonal.
“Obviously, you are taking up some parking spaces, so we have to look at how it impacts parking and circulation around each of these areas, but if that’s not an issue, then I think a covering is something we should discuss,” he said.
Abraham said that, with restaurants being hard hit by the pandemic, parking becomes less of a concern than table seating.
“I can tell you, first-hand, restaurant owners will give up parking for seating right now, and leave it to the customers to find places to park,” he said. “Although we do have to be sensitive to the influx of traffic and parking into the residential neighborhoods, and make sure we don’t solve a problem and create a different problem.”