If restaurants want to set up tables on Montclair sidewalks, they will now pay more to use the public space.
Montclair Township Council voted Tuesday to increase permit fees and regulations for restaurant owners who offer outdoor seating. However, a restaurant owner and the Montclair Center Business Improvement District say it strikes a fair balance.
“The Montclair Center Business Improvement District is pleased that the council listened to the complaints registered by restaurants and the BID,” said Luther Flurry, director the Montclair BID.
Restaurant owners previously paid a permit fee of $150 a year for outdoor seating. The new proposal sets the yearly fees at $150 for restaurants with fewer than 13 seats, and $250 for those with more than a dozen seats. According to the ordinance, additional fees and regulations include:
- A fee of $1.25 per square foot of sidewalk used by restaurants who have more than three tables or six seats.
- A “partition” separating the dining area from the pedestrian passageway.
- At least a 6-foot “unobstructed passageway” for people to walk through between the business and the outdoor tables.
- Hours of operation between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. only.
The yearly fees will be waived for the first year.
The ordinance was first proposed in October. However, the council made various changes to the ordinance -- such as lowering the fees and nixing a requirement to provide an overhang or covering for each outdoor table -- after protests arose from business owners last month.
“We got input from a number of those with cafes,” said Deputy Mayor Robert Russo on Tuesday night before the passage of the ordinance. We want restaurants to prosper but we also want to insure pedestrian right-of-ways, he added.
“The current ordinance reflects compromise and discussion by the council,” said Flurry.
Of the approximate 75 eateries in the Montclair BID, only a handful of restaurants will incur the brunt of the new fees -- such as those restaurants on Church and Park streets, including Leone’s Italian Restaurant and Raymond’s.
Tapastry owner Greg Spinelli said he will also see a sizable increase in his yearly fees. Throughout the spring, summer and fall, he sets up dozens of tables on the Church Street sidewalk, taking up about 350 square feet of space.
Spinelli attended the council meetings in October and criticized what he said was a burdensome ordinance at the time. He was pleased however with changes the council decided on.
“The original proposal was too much,” said Spinelli. “If nobody is very happy, it is probably the right solution.”