The Poynette Plan Commission is in favor of making things a little easier when it comes to local restaurants wanting to create outdoor eating areas.
Currently, if a restaurant wants to expand into outdoor dining, it needs to apply for a permit each year to do so. The Owl’s Nest did such a thing for 2020, to help keep patrons coming in during the COVID-19 pandemic. That permit was just for one year, and the Owl’s Nest then did not have outdoor seating in 2021.
Terri Zuege, owner of the Owl’s Nest came before the Commission at its April 5 meeting, seeking approval of a permit for 2022, as well as find out if there was an easier way to accommodate her request without needing to bring it up year after year.
Zuege spoke during the public hearing portion of the agenda. She noted that coming off the COVID-19 pandemic, people still enjoy eating outside. When her restaurant has bands play, they have someone watching to make sure alcoholic drinks don’t go passed a certain point on the grounds. The bands scheduled, which is usually only one per month, would stop playing by 8 p.m., as to not disturb neighboring residents late into the night.
The Commission unanimously approved the Owl’s Nest to have an outdoor dining area and place for music in 2022.
So for this year, the Owl’s Nest will have outdoor dining again — limited to a size of 25% of the indoor space, plus an outdoor alcohol area, which would be limited to a size of 50% of the indoor space. That space would be in conjunction with, and extending beyond the outdoor dining area. This is the portion that requires the condition use permit (CUP). Fencing would also be installed to enclose the outdoor areas.
The Commission was also in favor of amending the ordinance that relates to this situation. Instead of a restaurant requesting the same permit each year, an extension could be given to owners for another set amount of time.
Village Administrator Craig Malin said that the commission could decide to make an ordinance that would allow the permit to be used for longer than a year, noting a year was just the standard length that municipalities use. Malin said the commission can extend the CUP for as long as it wishes. He said that he can amend the ordinance in such a way, that in case “things go south” with an establishment, that the village can pull the permit and the business would cease outdoor dining operations.
Currently there is a fee to apply for a CUP in the village, but commissioner Tyler Johnson said that if a business is up for a renewal after the appropriate time, and no problems have arisen, the renewal should come at no cost.
Commissioner Alan Ammerman was in favor of extending a CUP, but also wanted to be able to review such permit every year. Commissioner Joanne Morales agreed, and added that if there was ever a change in ownership to a business, that would be a reason for review as well.
Approval for the ordinance amendment will come before the commission at a future meeting.
While updating the Poynette Village Board at its April 11, Village President Diana Kaschinske — who also chairs the Plan Commission — likened the situation to what the city of Madison currently did for its restaurants.
The Madison City Council recently approved its “Streatery” program to an indefinite extension. The ruling allows city restaurants to use public spaces — parking lots, sidewalks and angled parking spaces — as patios and outdoor dining areas.
The program was put into place during the COVID-19 pandemic to help keep restaurants in business, and was extended in 2021 and set to expire in April 2022, until the recent ruling.