Should platform cafes take over parking spaces?

There could be fewer meters available for cars to park at if commissioners approve permits for "platform cafes."

Traverse City could take part in a new trend: Platform cafés.

A group of commissioners met Thursday to go over the sidewalk café ordinance, which they're now calling the open space café ordinance.

A platform café converts parking spaces into areas for dining. A sidewalk-high platform connects to the sidewalk, extending the restaurantâ??s service area.

The idea is getting mixed reviews so far.

Pangea's pizza already offers outdoor seating on its porch and also out front by the road.

â??People are really itching for the outdoor seating,â?? said Loren Ferrer, chef and manager of Pangeaâ??s Pizza. â??They're really itching for the warm-up; they want it to be spring. We have the walkup window. People often get slices and they want some place to sit down after they have their slices. So we put three tables out there with chairs.â??

People are getting ready for warmer weather and eating outside.

â??Many restaurants should offer it that don't,â?? said Dalton Cooper from Traverse City. â??I know that if it's nice out, I want to eat outside. I'm a people watcher.â??

â??I like the atmosphere,â?? said Casey Penzien from Traverse City. â??I like it everywhere down here.â??

â??We'll all be very excited the first day we throw the chairs outside and the umbrellas up,â?? said Jason Kasdorf, the general manager at 7 Monks Taproom. â??A lot of people enjoy sitting out and drinking a beer in the sun. So it's a lot of fun for us. But I think we have a little bit of a ways to go.â??

Currently, restaurants in Traverse City pay for a permit to put out tables and chairs for customers to use.

The sidewalk cafe permit is valid from April to the beginning of November. The platform cafés would likely have a shorter time frame and more restrictive requirements, according to Commissioner Jeanine Easterday.

One of the main issues with platform cafes is that they limit already limited parking.

â??I think that's really what we need to seriously look at,â?? admitted Easterday. â??Right now we don't have a good parking structure. We have a nice parking structure on the east end of town, but we don't really have anything comparable to that on the west side of town. Parking really is at a premium.

â??There's definitely a parking shortage, especially close parking,â?? said Ferrer. â??I feel that because of that lack of close parking, we do lose some of our downtown business to business outside of downtown with better parking. I don't think that taking away our parking spots is necessarily a great idea.â??

â??Parking is a huge issue,â?? said Cooper. â??As long as the businesses are willing to pay for the space, I think one, two, three, four, five spaces isn't going to kill the city.â??

Since there are still a lot of questions and uncertainty, some shops are waiting to see how it all unfolds.

â??I'd be interested to see it,â?? said. I'd be interested to see if for other people it expands their outdoor seating. I don't see anything wrong with it,â?? said Kasdorf.

The specifics aren't nailed down yet, but other city's that have tried out the platform system require the restaurant to cover daily meter fees on top of the permit fee.

â??Other restaurants without outdoor seating would probably be really interested in that, but we don't, I doubt we would rent any of that space,â?? said Ferrer.

Commissioners are waiting to receive comments from the Downtown Development Authority as well as the Downtown Traverse City Association before making a decision.

The ad hoc committee will meet again in the middle of April to further discuss the issue.