Casper City Council Crunches Sidewalk Cafe Permit Proposal
Pleasant summer evenings with people sitting at a table sipping a drink on a sidewalk downtown won't be happening in Casper any time soon.
Casper City Council at a work session Tuesday gave a thumbs down to reconsidering allowing businesses to obtain sidewalk cafe permits to use the sidewalks for eating, selling clothes, or anything that may block public access.
The idea came up a couple of years ago from a now defunct restaurant that wanted the city to decommission a few parking places in front of it, City Manager Carter Napier and Mayor Charlie Powell said.
But federal, state and local laws -- for the most part -- won't allow that, City Attorney John Henley said.
On the federal side, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires public sidewalks to be at least six feet wide, Henley said.
The Wyoming Constitution prohibits donations of public property to private entities with the exception for assistance to the poor, he said. Wyoming law also requires sidewalks to be held in the public trust for public purposes.
Locally, Casper prohibits having open containers of alcohol, nor should anything obstruct sidewalks except for special events such as Crazy Days during the summer, Henley said.
Some businesses also have bought property with space to allow customers to sit outside, and they would resent other businesses getting the privilege of using the public sidewalks, he added.
Restaurants and other businesses may be able to obtain a permit like food trucks do, he said. "There are ways to navigate it."
Most council members opposed it.
"It's just a horrible idea," Mike Huber said.
Powell responded that a business would pay a market rate to use the public space.
Khrystyn Lutz said many of the sidewalks aren't wide enough, and she wondered if the existing city codes are being enforced with businesses that have had tables and clothing for sale on sidewalks.
Lutz and Steve Freel said they opposed the sidewalk cafe permit idea, but were open to doing more research.
Gillette, Powell said, allows for sidewalk cafes.
Napier responded that he implemented the sidewalk cafe idea when he was city manager in Gillette. That happened, he said, because the city redesigned the streets downtown that created very wide sidewalks.
After the discussion was over, and Powell conceded that he didn't win the idea of sidewalk cafes, Chris Walsh expressed exasperation with the whole concept.
The idea resulted from a single request from a single now-shuttered restaurant two years ago, Walsh said. "Stab me in the eye with a pencil."