Bemidji Residents Share Opinions on Proposed Outdoor Dining Changes
Bemidji residents made their views known at tonight’s Bemidji City Council meeting about a proposed ordinance adjustment that would allow restaurants in the city to serve alcohol outdoors and use public right-of-ways for patio space.
Downtown restaurants were allowed to expand their outdoor dining spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic beginning in 2020. Last summer, alcohol was not allowed to be served in the public streets and sidewalks. The new amendments would allow alcohol.
“I am 100% in favor of safety on the sidewalk,” said Bill Batchelder, owner of Bemidji Woolen Mills. “Make it beautiful, make it pleasant, make it inviting, but the second you step into the street, then it’s costing me tax dollars, every merchant downtown, and these fees that we put there – you can rent parking spots in the parking lots, costs more expensive than what the fee is to take three, four spots.”
“What a better opportunity than to have at your doorstep a patio full of 100 or some people looking at your store,” said Brett Leach, Bar 209 Owner. “Yes, I understand that there is a loss of parking but once those people get there, they’re an active consumer. They’re right in front of your doorstep. Take advantage of it and make the best of it.”
Tonight was the second reading of the amendments. The council will vote on them at the third reading.