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City Looks To Spruce Up Peoria's Outdoor Cafes

Restaurant owners are mixed about its proposal to council.
PEORIA - City officials want to spruce up downtown Peoria’s outdoor cafes. They say new regulations will make them more lively and accessible, but some restaurant owners are concerned about the new plans.
It’s no secret that many Central Illinois residents like to dine outdoors.

"You get to enjoy it a little bit more. Makes the food taste a little better,” said Morton resident Michelle Parker.

"It's really convenient. I like the downtown areas. They're cleaning it up," said Peoria resident Larrice Duke.

Now the City of Peoria wants to make dining at outside cafes even more enjoyable.

Nick Stoffer and the Public Works Department hopes their 30-page Sidewalk Café Guide- based off a successful Chicago program- will do just that.

"Help guide the businesses to have a nice, aesthetic sidewalk café,” said Traffic Engineer with the City of Peoria, Nick Stoffer.

Some of the proposed guidelines allow cafes to be open earlier and be more customer friendly.

It’s part of an extra ordinance that would allow cafes to open at 6:00 a.m.

A lot of area cafes support this part of the document.

"I think it's a great idea to have sidewalk cafes and have them accessible as much of the year as you possibly can,” said President of Cracked Pepper, Salt, and Sugar Travis Mohlenbrink.

One section of the guide is sending up a red flag.

It calls for at least half of the exterior railings and fences to be covered by plants and for an area more than 300 square feet, some kind of shrub must be placed every 100 square feet.

"We'd have some expenses involved with the flowers and plants and whatever vessel we'd have to purchase to hold those flowers and plants in," said Mohlenbrink.

The City says it’s worth it to make downtown a little more green.

“We want flowers. We want plants to help make them beautiful.”

Some owners, on the other hand, think they are already doing their part.

"I think we've done our job already. To require us to do more might be a little over kill."

We spoke to the downtown development corporation and it supports the new changes and thinks it is a positive thing for the Warehouse District. City Council is voting on the new guidelines at its meeting tonight.
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