St. Charles continues to discuss First Street options
The future of First Street in St. Charles and its hard-hit bars and restaurants continues to be a major topic of discussion for the city council.
Two proposals were brought before the aldermen at Monday's meeting, including one with outdoor dining options from spring to fall of 2021. The aldermen also received an update on the First Street Plaza project that aims to develop the area near the vacant former Manor Restaurant site along the western bank of the Fox River just south of Route 64.
No action was taken, but the aldermen provided staff with feedback on proposals that will be critical to the survival of restaurants and bars in that corridor as they deal with decreased revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A portion of First Street south of Route 64 was closed to vehicular traffic on May 29 to allow for expanded seating for outdoor dining, but the city opened it again in October to enable easier access to carryout service when indoor dining restrictions were enacted.
With an eye on next year, the aldermen were presented Monday with outdoor dining options comparing the possibility of First Street being closed or open between spring and fall. Many of the aldermen leaned toward the option of closing First Street to create additional outdoor seating for restaurants including La Za Za's, Alter Brewing, Gia Mia's, McNally's and La Mesa.
"These particular establishments are going to be struggling to get back on their feet long after the vaccine is disseminated and things seem to be getting better as we move through phases," said St. Charles Ward 3 Alderman Todd Bancroft. "Maybe 2021 is really the year that we just say that we're going to be more aggressive in what we offer."
The aldermen also spoke about the need for a long-term outdoor dining plan as COVID-19 vaccines become widely available and restaurants work to recover financially, a detail appreciated by Alter Brewing President Ken Henricks.
"What does recovery look like for restaurant operators going through 2021 and beyond?" Henricks said. "It's going to take not months. It's going to take at least two if not three years. And I say that prefaced by the fact that I've dealt with a lot of tears and anxiety. I've laid off 80 percent of my staff in the last month."
An update on the First Street Plaza project provided Monday included tweaks to the plan and a communication process detailed by St. Charles City Administrator Mark Koenen to solicit feedback as the plan develops. The city hopes to begin construction on the project in 2021.
Public Works Director Peter Suhr outlined the changes to the plan, highlighted by a winding path that replaces a portion of First Street and features outdoor seating and plant and sculpture gardens along the path.