Chicago alderman come up with some of the strangest ideas to alter their part of the Windy City. Tom Tunney, who represents the 44th Ward on the city’s North Side, wants diners to be able to eat and drink in the street. He is proposing to Chicago’s City Council that restaurants be allowed to have what is being referred to as “curbside cafes,” according to the Chicago Tribune on Thursday. While the 44th Ward is inundated with restaurants in the Wrigleyville neighborhood and beyond on the city’s North-Northwest Side, there are those who think there has been enough disaster in trying to get motorists on Chicago’s congested streets and the people out of vehicles to coexist.
First, Chicago motorists and bicyclists have contention because of the inundation of bicycle lanes that have taken traffic lanes and parking spaces away from motorists. This is exasperated by the Divvy bikes throughout the city that have been criticized for being eyesores and more. If Tunney’s ordinance sees the light of day and people start eating out on the curbs of restaurants, naturally, it brings vehicles and their fumes closer to the diners who are eating on the curb. By the way, has the Board of Health weighed in on this plan yet? Really, eating on the curb?
The plan is that curbside cafes would not be allowed to extend the controversial bike lanes that are already in place throughout the city. A restaurant’s curbside café could replace as much as 25 feet worth of parking spaces. Again, this smacks a motorist right in the face with yet more inconvenience as they will lose yet more parking spaces on the streets where many popular businesses are. One curbside café would be allowed on each side of a city block, but downtown restaurants would not be allowed to engage in such an operation.
And as far as booze is concerned. No. Drinking out on the sidewalks and streets of Chicago is still not to be permitted. The curbside cafes would operate from May 1 through Sept. 30 as that is when the weather would permit such an operation. Naturally, there is a financial advantage for the city in all of this, too. A business would have to pay $100 annually to engage in the ordinance’s plan. The restaurant would have to set up a platform the same height as the sidewalk and a fence to separate diners from the cars driving past with their exhaust fumes. Many restaurants already have sidewalk cafes. They work very well. But pushing the restaurants’ patrons closer to the traffic doesn’t strike a desirable chord to many. Many are logically asking whether or not the Chicago City Council can spell the words “potential disaster?” If not, hopefully they can spell “fail.”
This comes just days before the city’s new and extremely controversial “no plastic bags” law goes into effect on August 1. While in other city governance news, Crain’s reports that a property tax hike may be in the offing. The city has many hurdles to jump, financially, and a property tax hike may be the last on the list of needed fixes. The city currently has a $250 million – or greater – pension problem that needs to be addressed now.
Perhaps, the alderman can grab coffee and snack and and discuss it out on the curb in the city’s traffic – where they’re considering to send the city’s patrons to eat. But seriously, the City Council should consider plans that would get the people who “have to eat on the streets” – also known as the Chicago homeless – off the streets. Of course, that would involve the city spending money instead of making money.