If you want to drink at a bar or restaurant in Stillwater, get ready to sit outside. For a business area blessed with many outdoor patios and decks, al fresco dining has been the norm in Stillwater. Starting June 1, the state of Minnesota lifted restrictions related to COVID-19 to allow bars and restaurants with outdoor space to open up for customers. For the few establishments that don’t have a private property location for outdoor dining, the Stillwater city council is allowing businesses to allow for a permit that would allow the construction of a “parklet” on city property for the purpose of selling food and drinks.

According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, the term “parklet” refers to public seating platforms that convert curbside parking spaces in community space and are partnerships between the city and local businesses or organizations. Due to it’s location in the parking lane, these areas are encouraged to have features visible to parked cars and moving traffic.

These parklets and patios are reminiscent of German beer gardens with tables and chairs set up in a fenced off area. The city of Stillwater has issued several permits for outdoor service, including working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to close off parts of Chestnut Street in downtown Stillwater to allow for the constructions of outdoor sitting areas.

The city council held a special meeting May 27 to approve several permits, including some that are expanding patio space into the business’s private parking lots. The council does not need to review a request for a permit onto private property solely for food service, but the council does require the business to request the expansion of the businesses liquor license to include the parking area. Each individual liquor license is modified by the council’s approval for the outdoor service space.

Contact Alicia Lebens at alicia.lebens@ecm-inc.com

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