The face of Main Street is quickly changing. As outdoor dining platforms bloom along Main Street eateries, merchants on the 500 block were dismayed to hear that City Hall is planning to remove the existing “pockets” on that block sometime in July, instead of the October date they had been told by city officials.
That means two restaurants on the 500 block – Pacifica Pizza and Lemongrass Bistro – will be able to install the outdoor platforms months earlier than they had originally planned. It also means that the significantly larger “pockets” will not be available to Haute Stuff and Tapatia restaurants during the busy outdoor dining months.
"This is the first I've heard of it," said Pat English, who owns Haute Stuff. "No one has told me anything about moving up the project. That will definitely hurt my business."
Summer is the peak time for outdoor dining. Haute Stuff and La Tapatia owners have both stated that losing their present capacity for outside tables will have a very serious effect on their bottom line. The new wooden dining platforms are less than half the size of the brick pockets. Neither restaurant is presently paying for use of them.
City engineer Tim Tucker said Thursday that the schedule was moved up from October to July because “there is an opportunity to do the work sooner than we expected.” He was referring to repaving the 500 block, which was deferred during last year’s Main Street paving project because of the pockets. City officials say the brick pockets, installed as a one-year test project in 1999, have to be removed before paving can take place.
But the 500 block merchants want the pockets returned to their original state after the paving, something the city says it will not do, because the original design does not meet state engineering standards. The merchants say that theirs is the most robust block downtown thanks to the pockets.
But the city council at its last meeting decided two key issues after public workshops – all restaurant owners who want them can apply for an outdoor dining platform if they agree to a $1,200 “buy-in” fee and a $64 monthly fee to replace lost parking revenue (the platforms take up one parking space), and the 500 block will be returned to two-way traffic. That was also a bone of contention with 500 block merchants, who feel the one-way configuration helped slow traffic and draw attention to the shops and restaurants there.
City officials and a majority of the council argued that two-way traffic was safer and easier for drivers to navigate, particularly those from out of town. Other downtown streets, including Castro and Estudillo, will also be returned to two-way traffic. In fact, two-way traffic has already been restored on Castro.
Outdoor dining platforms have been installed in front of Roxx on Main and Compass Star restaurants. Marty O’s is installing two outdoor platforms, and Pacifica Pizza is in the process of filling out the application.