Mundelein sets rules for sidewalk dining areas
Mundelein restaurateurs who want to operate dining areas on public sidewalks must keep the spaces accessible for people with disabilities, clean them and leave ample room for passersby, a new village policy dictates.
Owners of any other Mundelein businesses who want to put benches or chairs on public sidewalks will face similar rules as part of the outdoor dining and seating standards approved by the village board Monday night.
All local entrepreneurs seeking to use public sidewalks for seating or dining will have to apply for a permit.
Outdoor dining or seating areas on private property are exempt from the policy.
Other rules in the new policy say business owners must:
• Hold insurance for sidewalk space they use.
• Ensure seating areas don't block doorways or emergency exits or pedestrian access.
• Create barriers, such as sectional fencing or planter boxes, around sidewalk dining areas to separate them from the rest of the sidewalk.
Barriers aren't needed for simpler seating areas.
Leaving room on sidewalks for pedestrians is important, officials said.
"Folks with baby strollers and those in wheelchairs or other devices deserve priority on sidewalks," Trustee Ray Semple said. "We can't force people to walk in the street because the business took up the entire sidewalk."
Tina G's and Park Street Restaurant in downtown Mundelein have seasonal sidewalk dining sections. The restaurants are next to each other on Park Street east of Route 45. A coffee shop on the same block, the Area General Store, has an outdoor table and chairs.
Semple said he's visited cities that ban car traffic on some streets so popular restaurants can use the entire sidewalk and pedestrians can walk in the roadway.
"Maybe someday Park Street could be utilized for this purpose," Semple said. "We are not there yet."
Sidewalk seating will only be allowed between mid-April and mid-November. The rest of the year, benches, tables and chairs must be stored indoors, the new policy dictates.
The permit process will be free. But fines may be assessed to any business that repeatedly violates the standards.
Businesses that owe money to the village will not be granted sidewalk seating permits.
Mayor Steve Lentz hopes sidewalk dining catches on in Mundelein.
"Eating outdoors in a good environment is very relaxing, and afterward I remind myself to do that more often," Lentz said. "It's tough to beat the combination of fresh air, good food and enjoyable company."