Coming to Utica: Outdoor bars on Mill Street during summer

Bars must stay off sidewalks and be manned at all times

Utica is expanding outdoor dining to let business owners have outdoor bars in Mill Street, which will again be closed for most of the summer.

Thursday, the Utica Village Board voted 5-1 to approve outdoor bars once Mill Street is roped off to thru-traffic for outdoor dining, a concept that was tried successfully last year when the pandemic struck.

Mayor David Stewart said he was approached by a few downtown business owners inquiring about having walk-up bars in the street to accommodate outdoor diners.

Stewart said he supported the concept in principle with two sticking points. First, the bars must be manned at all times; leaving a bar unattended would be a “major violation.” Second, there can be no bars on the sidewalks, which are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act and cannot be obstructed.

“We do not want (authorities) showing up and telling us to take the whole thing down,” Stewart said.

A few village officers will have the authority to supervise the operation. Village trustees also reminded the business owners it’s up to them to make sure their insurers are OK with outdoor bars.

Trustee Debbie Krizel cast the lone “no” vote, saying she believed the addition of bars would add too much congestion.

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.