PENDLETON - The City Council said "no thanks" Tuesday evening to the effort to serve up a reheated outdoor cafe seating project.
In a 5-3 vote, the council rejected the proposal for the second time in two months with councilors Marjorie Iburg, Steve Bjerke and Cheryl Marier in favor.
If approved, the city would have built 18 street-level platforms to temporarily expand outdoor seating for two restaurants in the 400 block of South Main Street. The 4-foot by 8-foot steel platforms, complete with safety railings, would have occupied two parking spaces in front of Great Pacific Wine & Coffee Co. and one in front of the Pendleton Coffee Bean.
The original proposal came from the city's Urban Renewal Committee in February. The council rejected it 5-2 on Feb. 15, but Bjerke, who supported the project, was absent. He said Tuesday he encouraged the staff to put it on the agenda again.
City Manager Larry Lehman stressed Tuesday that placing the platforms in front of the restaurants, which would expand their outdoor seating capacities for a few months, would be a one-year experiment. If successful, he said the restaurants would reimburse the city for the estimated $7,500 cost over five years. They also would be responsible for furnishing and maintaining the platforms.
Councilors had lots of questions.
Steve Taylor asked who would be responsible for insurance. Lehman said the city and the business would share insurance costs. Bob Patterson, public works director, said the platforms would be built with railings to protect restaurant customers from traffic, but if a vehicle were to crash into one of them, people seated there probably would be injured.
Councilor Dan Ceniga said he objected to the project because it appeared the city was promoting individual businesses. Fellow councilor Cheryl Beck, who owns a business in the 200 block of South Main Street, said she had talked with many merchants in the 300 block who opposed the project, mainly because it would reduce parking downtown.
Some feared people would park in the 300 block and walk to the 400 block, she said.
Larry Anderson, owner of the Main Street Diner, 349 S. Main St., confirmed that. He said he had three objections to the proposal: First, some downtown business owners and apartment tenants take up valuable parking on South Main Street. Second, the outdoor seating would improve the visibility of the selected restaurants so that people driving downtown "are not going to see my little bitty restaurant." Third, the proposal promoted unfair competition for his business.
"Urban renewal should be for the entire Main Street, not for just two businesses," he said.