The San Luis Obispo City Council at its Dec. 15 meeting voted to lower fees for businesses that want to set up tables and chairs on city sidewalks. The move won’t cause the city to lose any money; officials say no business had ever paid the high fees to set up a Paris street café dining arrangement.
The city set up higher fees and extensive rules when it presented the “city sidewalk café ordinance” to businesses in 2000. A large dining area could have cost a restaurant thousands of dollars with the old fee schedule. The city never brought in any money from its effort to create a French boulevard option for local eateries, so it decided to make the effort easier and cheaper. The council reduced the application fee to $279 from $781 and eliminated a slew of other fees. But it couldn’t help but raise one of the fees: monthly rent per square foot climbed to $1 from 66 cents.
The council did create a new category for the more proletarian businesses: a “Tables and Chairs” category that would allow room for six chairs and costs $279 a year. Such “black market” cafes already exist, and the city will now be able to get a little cut of this style of poor man’s Boulevard Montparnasse living.
And the council did make the proposal its own. City staffers suggested the “Tables and Chairs” setup should allow non-customers to have a sit, but leaders nixed that idea and insisted the tables and chairs disappear after 8 p.m. so the bar crowd couldn’t use them.