St. Charles City Council approves summer closure of Walnut Avenue

It appears that Flagship on the Fox will not be able to use Walnut Avenue for its outdoor dining program this year.

At the St. Charles City Council’s Planning and Development Committee meeting on Monday, the majority of alderpersons voted not to allow the temporary closure of Walnut Avenue through Oct. 31 for outdoor dining.

St. Charles City Council members at their April 15 meeting approved the closure of a portion of Walnut Avenue for the summer to make way for outdoor dining.

As approved, the section of Walnut Avenue between Riverside and Second avenues is now closed to street traffic through Oct. 31.

The closure was approved in a 5-4 vote. Alderpersons David Pietryla, Ronald Silkaitis, Bryan Wirball and Steve Weber voted no. The council also approved agreements with the Arcada Theatre and Flagship on the Fox in separate votes.

According to the agreements, Flagship on the Fox will convert the sidewalk on the south side of the street into an outdoor patio, The Arcada Theatre will still use the north side of the street for bus parking and the remaining section of the street will be a community dining space.

St. Charles City Council members are considering the temporary closure of Walnut Avenue from April 15 to Oct. 31 to create space for outdoor dining.

The Arcada Theatre will pay a $456.25 fee to the city and Flagship on the Fox will pay a fee of $40 per outdoor seat, which is the same fee imposed on west side businesses that use the First Street Plaza for outdoor dining.

The closure had been a controversial topic at recent committee meetings, with residents, business owners and City Council members divided on whether the public-private partnership is beneficial to the city.

Those in favor of the closure believe the public dining space is needed on the east side of downtown and the new space will attract visitors, improve safety and walkability for pedestrians and benefit several east side businesses and the city.

Those against the closure say closing a public roadway for private businesses is a misuse of city funds that will take away needed parking spaces, cause traffic problems for east side residents and benefit a single business, Flagship on the Fox.

Walnut Avenue was closed in a similar fashion during the summers of 2021 and 2022 as a means to offset the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic regulations.

City Council members voted against the closure last year.

At a March 11 Planning and Development Committee meeting, residents, business owners and attorneys engaged in more than an hour of debate over the closure during public comment.

The main proponents for the closure were Christopher Curren, owner of The Graceful Ordinary, and Curtis Hurst of Frontier Development. Several east side residents and multiple attorneys representing west side businesses were against the closure.

At the April 15 City Council meeting, three residents made public comment after the vote, each expressing disappointment with the council’s decision.

St. Charles resident Greg Taylor said the closure is a one-sided partnership in which the city stands to lose more than the businesses. He cited concerns with costs to the city, loss of parking and said Flagship on the Fox is getting a competitive advantage over other east side restaurants.

St. Charles resident Martha Gass said closing the street gives special treatment to Flagship on the Fox and is a disincentive to other business owners who invest in their own spaces. She alleged the city should compensate other business owners who are negatively affected by the decision to close Walnut Avenue.