Year-round sidewalk cafes seen in city's future

Geodesic domes, or igloos, for dining on a private plaza at the Next of Kin restaurant in February.

Evanston aldermen Monday gave city staff approval to draft an ordinance that would permit sidewalk cafes to operate year-round here.

Currently the city limits the sidewalk cafe season to from April 1 to Nov. 1.

Chicago recently updated its sidewalk cafe ordinance to permit year-round operation, and cool-weather dining under geodesic domes has been catching on in other cities -- including Toronto and Detroit.

The plastic domes or igloos even sprouted this winter on the private 1603 Orrington plaza outside the Next of Kin restaurant here in Evanston.

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said she was concerned about the aesthetics of the cafes and Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she was worried about snow removal and what permanent fixtures would be allowed on the sidewalks.

City Engineer Lara Biggs said restaurant owners would still be responsible for snow removal and that any ordinance would have to provide for the restaurant owners to cover the cost to the city of eventually replacing stretches of sidewalk that would be weakened by having bolts drilled into it to fasten cafe fixtures.

The aldermen didn't actually discuss what sort of shelter the cafes might provide for cool-weather diners.

But Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said fixing the location of cafe furniture should improve the safety and usability of the cafes, and Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said bolting down the fixtures could keep cafe furniture from migrating into walkways the way it tends to do now.

Aldermen also agreed to have staff prepare an ordinance that would permit carry-out restaurants to serve liquor at their sidewalk cafes, providing they provided a server to staff the sidewalk cafe to control liquor consumption.

Once the ordinances are drafted, they'll return to City Council for further discussion and approval.