Enforcement issues with sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating was discussed by the Howell City Council during Monday night’s meeting.

The City approved a resolution in 2005 allowing sidewalk cafés on Grand River and Michigan Avenue in the downtown area. Both are considered state trunk line highways that fall under MDOT jurisdiction. Thus, local approval was required for any business to receive a sidewalk café permit from MDOT. The Howell Main Street Winery reached out to the city after being denied a permit from MDOT, which stated a local resolution of approval was needed. Staff investigated and it was determined the local approval resolution simply needed updating being nearly 14 years old. Minor updates were made and the updated version was approved Monday night. A memo noted all businesses still need to submit plans to the city the first time they apply and receive local approval.

While the resolution was only briefly discussed, it led to other discussion on outdoor seating and some problems with enforcement. Restaurants must maintain a certain distance of sidewalk space so as to not block anything and allow for proper pedestrian flow. Being the start of a new season, businesses will be put on notice. It’s said to be an annual problem with some businesses. Repeated problems could result in the city revoking permits but that is the only option for enforcement currently and staff typically just contacts the offending business. Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Manor commented that if there aren’t any consequences, then there really isn’t any incentive to obey the rules. Future enforcement options could be discussed at a later date. (JM)