St. Charles set to extend popular outdoor dining program through winter

St. Charles aldermen are looking to extend the city’s popular outdoor dining program through the winter.

At the City Council’s Planning and Development Committee meeting on Monday, aldermen unanimously recommended extending the program through the winter season and ending it by April 15. The program is currently set to end on Dec. 31.

The full City Council will now vote on the recommendation. St. Charles officials created the program last year as a way to help restaurants having to comply with the state’s COVID-19 mitigation plan.

Through the program, businesses have been able to obtain permits to set up outdoor areas and tent enclosures in a number of locations, both within downtown and elsewhere, including within private parking lots, public parking lots, public sidewalks and the First Street public plazas, said Russell Colby, acting director of the city’s community and economic development department.

City staff had recommended not extending the outdoor dining program beyond the start of the normal sidewalk café permit season. The season normally starts on April 15.

The owner of Alter Brewing, which is located on First Street, requested the city extend the outdoor dining program because the brewery once again wants to offer heated igloos this winter season for dining.

Discussion of the city’s outdoor dining program is expected to continue.

“Going forward, with respect to the First Street plaza area, that will require further discussion regarding the long-term use and function of the plaza, as that space was designed and constructed for public use,” Colby told aldermen. “Additionally, some consideration may need to be given to the First Street Plaza expansion project if Phase II begins construction and that could start in 2022.”

Last year, aldermen unanimously voted to purchase the former Manor Restaurant site at the southeast corner of Main and First streets for $1 million in order to expand the First Street Plaza. That purchase included a $400,000 donation from the city and a $600,000 donation from Exelon.

First Ward Alderman Ron Silkaitis said he could go along with extending the outdoor dining program. But he said the city might have to charge businesses in the future to use the public property.

“It is a public plaza,” he said. “We need to keep that in mind for the future.”

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf covers St. Charles and writes entertainment stories for the Kane County Chronicle.