Outdoor dining in downtown Martinez inched closer to reality Wednesday, as the City Council unanimously agreed to purchase and install wooden platforms for all the restaurants requesting them.
As with all things, though, there’s a catch.
Because the platforms take up as many as two parking spaces, the restaurant owner must pay a monthly fee of $60 to offset some of the lost revenue from the parking meter. In addition, the restaurant owner must pay a $1,200 “buy-in” fee to help offset the cost of the platforms, which cost about $5,000 each.
And it was that point Wednesday that generated nearly two hours of discussion among council members and the public.
“There should be some skin the game in terms of investing in these things,” said councilman Mike Menesini. “Owners tend to take care of their property a little more than others.”
“Everyone will want something for free,” said downtown property owner and attorney Al Turnbaugh. “But private enterprise works this way – you spend money to make money. For every dollar the city puts into this, that’s a dollar we don’t have for something else.”
But Roxanne Cole, owner of Roxx on Main, argued that restaurant owners will have to pay to furnish the platforms, and maintain them.
“It’s for the betterment of the entire town, so I don’t understand the concept of this payment,” she said.
“Maintaining these places is a cost,” said vice mayor Mark Ross, noting that the city subsidizes the Willows Theater, the Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Martinez. “Government provides the platform for businesses to thrive. There’s something more than just money going on here.”
“Mark once told me he was a social liberal and a fiscal conservative,” Menesini shot back. “We’re going to have to revise that. It wasn’t that long ago I was fighting to lower fees for the boys’ and girls’ swim team and baseball fields, and certain folks were saying ‘we have to cover those costs and we can’t lower those fees,’ so I guess it all depends on whose ox is being gored.”
“I object to the city charging them (restaurant owners) anything. These restaurants bring in additional sales tax revenue to the city,” said Anne Mobley, owner of White Rabbit Boutique.
In the end, however, it was decided to reduce the “buy-in” fee from $2,400 to $1,200, and the monthly parking revenue off-set from $72 to $60. The city will begin purchasing the platforms and installing them later this year. The 500 block will have the original pockets removed sometime in October, said City Engineer Tim Tucker, and the street will be paved.