URBANA - Two Urbana tavern owners say they're pleased that the Urbana City Council is on the verge of liberalizing its sidewalk cafe regulations to allow them to sell beer and alcohol.
Under an ordinance amendment that will be considered by the Urbana council Monday night, establishments holding any of four different classes of city liquor licenses would be allowed to sell alcohol in an area where the business holds a city sidewalk cafe permit.
Under current regulations, the holder of a sidewalk cafe permit can sell alcohol, but their outdoor business must be at least 50 percent food-related, explained Urbana Mayor Tod Satterthwaite. The new ordinance amendment wouldn't worry about the sale of food.
"We're changing it so they can sell beer or alcohol without restrictions," Satterthwaite said. "We had been concerned about people being drunk and rowdy, but our experience with food and the city of Champaign's experience (with outdoor alcohol sales), it hasn't been much of a problem."
Satterthwaite said the city has been talking with bar owners about liberalizing sidewalk cafe regulations for a number of years.
John Messman, owner of Tod & John's, 201 N. Broadway Ave., U - who was Satterthwaite's former business partner before he was elected mayor - said he intends to add two outdoor tables in front of his business if the ordinance amendment is approved.
"It'll be out front," Messman said. "I'll only have two tables. I don't have that much room.
"But, a place as small as mine, if you get 10 or 12 people out there, that's a substantial increase in capacity," he said.
Paul Wirth, owner of the Iron Post, 120 S. Race St., U, said one of the reasons he bought his business was because of its corner location and the possibility of adding sidewalk sales. An Urbana Park District sidewalk park is located just south of his business.
"God, yes, that's one of the reasons I bought this business," said Wirth about adding outdoor alcohol sales. "I want to be the Esquire. This paves the way for me to do it. I've just got to get the money to knock holes in the wall.
"There's a potential for me to gain 40 to 60 seats from April to October, depending on the weather," Wirth continued. "I've got 82 seats now, with a capacity of 105, so that would greatly increase my capacity."
Wirth said he hopes he can find the money to add an outdoor sidewalk cafe this year. He praised the Urbana City Council for being willing to take steps to help downtown businesses.
"The Urbana City Council gets a bad rap, but they've been wonderful to work with," he said. "The council is trying stuff to help businesses downtown."
The Esquire is a popular downtown Champaign bar with a large beer garden on city property.
The city of Champaign built the area where the Esquire's beer garden is located as part of its streetscape project five or six years ago, said Esquire co-owner Bob Osiek.
"They wanted a jumping-off place where people would go and then shop downtown," said Osiek, who said the beer garden has helped his business.