Bainbridge merchants meet with city to discuss sidewalk retail uses

Shop owners can rest easy knowing the city supports retail on downtown Winslow sidewalks.

City Manager Doug Schulze met with downtown merchants Wednesday afternoon to discuss the city’s pending ordinance to permit sidewalk retail.

“We tried to write this in a way that what exists out there today isn’t impacted,” Schulze said.

Last month, city staff asked the Bainbridge Island City Council for policy direction to maintain Winslow’s pedestrian flow amidst outdoor dining and merchandise displays.

The council agreed that it supported outdoor business as long as there is a five-foot clearance for sidewalk use.

Schulze explained to shop owners Wednesday that while no business is currently violating the five-foot requirement, state law requires a permit process for a public space.

Also, Schulze said, the ordinance will give city staff a better understanding of how to address citizen complaints.

Some merchants welcomed the new rules.

“I agree it would be nice to have it settled, so that I don’t have to continue to be concerned that it’s going to change with what the understanding was,” said Brendan McGill, the owner of Hitchcock.

“I’m looking forward to it being codified.”

McGill explained to Schulze and concerned citizens present at the meeting that he bought the space for his restaurant and deli for its outdoor cafe potential.

In fact, he said, his property line extends 10 feet from the actual storefront and when he purchased the space, he informed the city that the outdoor cafe would be a piece of the overall restaurant.

Outdoor summertime business, McGill said, is essential for his restaurant.

“If I had to survive on winter business, it would be two more empty storefronts on Winslow,” McGill said.

Additionally, it was noted in the meeting, property owners covered a portion of the sidewalk renovations several years ago.

And as tenants, shop owners pay insurance where their property line extends.

Despite this, McGill said that now that an ordinance is on its way, he will have the information he needs to build a custom railing around his outdoor dining area.

Where before he had to wait for the city to create set standards for sidewalk use, now he can begin designing a rail that would be set just off the ground and installed into the side of his building.

Schulze plans to bring a draft ordinance on sidewalk retail to the council before the summer tourist season.

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