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Cleveland councilman pushing for street, sidewalk restaurant seating to help business owners

Posted at 9:43 AM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 18:19:48-04

CLEVELAND — Starting Friday, May 15 restaurants across the state of Ohio are permitted to operate their businesses for outdoor dining with indoor dining to resume May 21.

But reopening any restaurant during this pandemic is going to be costly.

Cleveland, joining a growing list of other cities across the state, are now urging local and state governments to allow for street and sidewalk seating.

"It is going to be critically important to save our restaurants quite frankly that we give them that added capacity," said Ward 3 Cleveland city councilman Kerry McCormack.

McCormack is leading the fight for the city of Cleveland.

The councilman said the idea is to increase seating capacities for restaurants across the city, businesses with and without outdoor patios.

"How do we ensure that we can expand their capacity as a restaurant so that they can pay their bills, they can pay their employees, so that they can make it worth it for them to reopen while doing that safely," McCormack said. "These are folks that are running on small margins and they're locally owned establishments. So we want to do whatever we can to support them as they reopen."

He said the tentative plan is form designated zones throughout Cleveland's popular districts—east side and west side. Safety measures would be implemented for each specific zone to make sure the businesses are protected, as well as the customers.

McCormack is also asking Cleveland leaders to remove parking restrictions, to help make space for the zones and give customers more parking options.

"How do we make it as easy as humanly possible for our local small businesses to attract customers and for people to come downtown into the city of Cleveland. We've got to be of that mindset. We are in a unique, unprecedented time, We need to come up with quick and creative solutions to ensure that we're supporting small businesses," he said.

While cities are making efforts to help their local business owners, many leaders are asking the state to make alterations to current liquor laws to allow restaurants to serve alcohol to a table in the street or sidewalk.

“We know that a lot of times that burger is not what pays the bills at these restaurants. It's the beer, the cocktail that has the higher return for the restaurant," he said.

Based on decisions Governor Mike Dewine has already made throughout the pandemic, McCormack said he's confident the governor will comply with ideas from local leaders.

"Given his kind of fine tune attention to these issues is receptive to being creative on how we support our local businesses," McCormack said.

The councilman said there's isn't a need for Cleveland to develop legislation for the move, rather they need to the mayor's office to approve permits when submitted.

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