A proposal to allow downtown bars and restaurants the ability to provide outdoor dining opportunities inched forward this week.
Officially presented to the Cortez City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 12, city attorney Mike Green replied to several concerns raised in regard to the three-page draft ordinance, including underage alcohol consumption, limiting the service to specific days and times and security issues.
“It’s totally discretionary,” Green told council members in attempt to alleviate fears. “There’s no right to get an outdoor license.”
According to the ordinance, downtown business owners would be permitted to apply for a license from the city, which would grant permission to serve both food and alcohol on city sidewalks.
“It’s only a lease to the sidewalk,” Green reiterated. “That’s it.”
To obtain the annual license, Green explained that business owners would be required to update their liquor license to include the outdoor space. If the city determined that a business violated any laws, then the establishment’s liquor license could be in jeopardy.
“It’s a revocable license,” added city manager Shane Hale.
Mayor Karen Sheek and council members Ty Keel and Orly Lucero publicly voiced support for the draft ordinance. The council was in consensus to move forward, agreeing to have an official first reading of the ordinance at their next public meeting on Jan. 26.
The proposed ordinance would be subject to a public hearing before final approval.
Municipal fees for the annual license have yet to be determined. In Telluride, businesses pay up to $6 per square foot in addition to application fees to provide outdoor dining.
KSJD director Jeff Pope initially approached the city with the idea, requesting the city to draft an ordinance. Pope didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting.
It remains unsure how many businesses would apply for an outdoor dining license, and it’s unknown if the Colorado Department of Transportation would approve Main Street frontage business to apply. The discretionary outdoor dining licenses would also be limited to businesses that could maintain a minimum of four feet of sidewalk space for pedestrian traffic, meaning those most likely to be eligible would have access to a side street.
If granted an outdoor dining license, business would be required to install semi-permanent barricades and obtain appropriate insurance coverage. Stipulations could also be added to future liquor license applications to ensure security concerns.
Green said the city’s current open container law would also have to be modified to allow for alcohol consumption within the outdoor barriers.