Stillwater considering proposal to let restaurants expand patios, create 'refreshment' zones

A new City of Stillwater proposal would allow restaurants to use parking lots and street parking spaces to create new patio seating for customers in the anticipation that a June 1 reopening will likely come with occupancy restrictions.

“We think bars and restaurants will probably be at a 50 percent capacity so we’re looking at ways, thinking out of the box for Stillwater, for how we can potentially help these bars and restaurants increase sales,” Stillwater Council Member David Junker said.

The proposal is going in front of the Stillwater City Council on Tuesday. The ordinance would allow some local restaurants to open seating areas in parking lots or in some parking spaces along the sidewalk.

The ordinance would also allow for “refreshment zones” in some city parking lots. These would be designated areas where customers could bring take-out food and beverages and sit down if restaurants are filled to capacity.

“There will be no alcohol or beverages served in those entertainment zones and we've got to be very cautious of the spacing as well too. We can’t load up these entertainment zones with 200 people, 500 people. We want to be very conscious of the spacing of those too,” Junker said.

How that spacing would be enforced is not made clear in the proposal. The proposal does point to other cities who have created similar “entertainment” or “refreshment” zones. To accommodate for these zones the council would have to consider changing open container policies. The proposal also includes information on possibly having a universal wrist band or cup color system to differentiate who is a customer are a local establishment and who may not be.

As part of the proposal, several Stillwater restaurants signed a petition supporting the proposed measures.

If the ordinance is passed on Tuesday it would not go into effect until June 1, the tentative date Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has set for bars and restaurants to reopen.