GALENA, Ill. — Galena City Council members are considering whether to continue outdoor dining on Main Street next year, while some would like to see it go on even longer.
Council members this week discussed re-implementing in 2021 a policy that closes part of Main Street so adjacent restaurants can serve patrons on the street. The policy was created this year to provide those businesses a way to serve customers during Illinois’ ban on indoor dining to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Council members ultimately voted to table the proposal so it could be researched further.
However, several expressed enthusiasm about continuing the program next year as the pandemic’s impacts linger.
“I have heard almost no negative comments about it, other than parking,” said Council Member Chris Allendorf. “That’s something that we already knew was an issue, though.”
He said he is in favor of re-establishing outdoor dining in April and closing it in late October. While the effects of the pandemic might dissipate prior to the fall of 2021, he argued that Galena could draw increased interest if it continues to allow outdoor dining throughout the year.
“This is something that Galena needs from a tourism development standpoint,” Allendorf said.
During the meeting, Angi Bruum, general manager of Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery, expressed her support for continuing outdoor dining after the pandemic.
“We should look at it with a bigger picture,” she said. “I just loved how the outdoor seating was, and I would like us to look at it further than just the pandemic.”
Council Member Pam Bernstein said she supports re-implementing the outdoor dining policy for 2021 and is considering supporting its continuation beyond that. She said such a policy would need to be reviewed on an annual basis.
“If it’s successful, I don’t see why we can’t keep doing it,” Bernstein said.
However, some council members expressed concerns about voting to continue outdoor dining before multiple issues were addressed.
Council Member Jerry Westemeier said he has concerns about issues such as access points for firefighters, garbage disposal and potential disadvantages for retail stores downtown.
“I don’t think we should rush into this,” Westemeier said. “We need answers before we vote this forward.”
Mayor Terry Renner said he is on the fence on continuing outdoor dining into 2021, arguing that the negatives outweigh the positives.
“There are a lot of things we would need to address, and money is a little tight right now,” Renner said. “I know the businesses are all for it, but we need to consider the wants of the entire town.”
City Administrator Mark Moran said city staff will examine implementing the policy for 2021 and on a more long-term basis. Council members are expected to review the policy again on Dec. 28.