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City Council discusses outdoor seating at local businesses

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City Council. Photo by Sarah Donaldson.

Athens City Council discussed parklets — outdoor seating for businesses — during Monday night’s virtual committee meeting.

Jessica Thomas, co-owner of Brenen’s Coffee Cafe, praised the addition of the outdoor seating, named a “parklet” by Andrew Chiki, the deputy service-safety director, who was also in attendance.

The parklet at Brenen’s sits on Court Street, directly across from the entrance to the coffee shop and restaurant, in what was previously a street parking space.

“We’ve had a really good response,” Thomas said. “We’ve had lots of people coming in and sitting in it and hanging out, having outdoor meals and enjoying that. We’ve got 10 extra seats with that.”

Thomas added that outdoor seating has helped bring in business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeing that the Brenen’s parklet has been successful, councilmembers suggested other businesses also implement the parklet-style seating. 

Mayor Steve Patterson suggested the Council gather data and make the positive feedback into a “pilot” before the feature becomes a permanent program in the City of Athens for other Uptown businesses. He said piloting the parklets would limit which businesses can create them.

The city would not allow businesses to create outdoor seating arrangements on city sidewalks when seating could create an obstacle, such as severely limiting space for pedestrians and customers. This would also prevent bars from creating parklets, since alcohol can’t be served on city property.

To counteract space lost to parklets, Councilmember Peter Kotses proposed extending sidewalks. This would create designated areas of city property, such as a designated parking spot.

Councilmember Beth Clodfelter suggested adding heated lamps or outdoor heaters to the parklets so that they can be used year round, should the parklets become permanent after Patterson’s suggested pilot date of Nov. 15.

With these ideas in mind, Council touched on introducing the idea to more local businesses by spring 2021. Thomas applauded the idea due to her business flourishing despite the hard times the pandemic has brought.

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