St. Charles could waive outdoor dining fees for restaurants affected by plaza construction

With the First Street plaza construction getting underway downtown, St. Charles officials are considering waiving outdoor dining fees, at least for the first half of the season, for restaurants that may be negatively impacted.

Currently, downtown restaurants that use the First Street Plaza for outdoor dining are required to obtain a sidewalk café permit. The permits are valid for 100 days, and businesses are required to renew the permit halfway through the outdoor dining season.

On Monday, the city's planning and development committee voted to recommend waiving fees for the first 100 days of the season. The recommendation also includes revisiting the fee waiver after the first 100-day permits expire to see if business owners are being affected by the construction.

The fees are determined based on the square footage of the plaza space used by each restaurant. Each 100-day permit costs $1 per square foot.

In 2022, the sidewalk café permit fees collected from McNally's, Gia Mia, La Zaza, La Mesa and Alter Brewing totaled $7,228. This year, if fees were collected, the total from those restaurants would be $6,480, as each restaurant had to reduce outdoor dining space due to the construction.

At the meeting, St. Charles Economic Development Director Derek Conley presented the recommendation to waive outdoor dining permit fees to offset the hindrances caused by the construction, including dust, noise and limited accessibility.

Conley said that waiving the fee for the entire outdoor dining season would be a gesture of goodwill towards the downtown business community, adding that there may be times construction occurs during the evening and on Saturdays.

The committee's recommendation will now go to the full city council.

The First Street redevelopment project has been in the works since 2020. The first phase was completed last spring and included building a retaining wall along the Fox River and filling the hole where the Manor Restaurant had been demolished.

The city council approved the second phase of funding and the construction of the First Street redevelopment at a meeting on March 20, and contractors began putting up construction fences on May 1.

The second phase will include the construction of a plaza featuring a solar pergola trellis and public art installations. Plans also call for closing a section of First Street to vehicles to create pedestrian walkways, from the parking garage entrance north to Main Street.

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