Double the tables, double the donations

The temporary tent at the Stilt House in Cedarburg was up for about a month last fall. Submitted image

CEDARBURG — The city of Cedarburg is beginning the process of creating rules for temporary tents at local businesses. The Cedarburg Common Council is having the Plan Commission work on revising the city’s temporary use ordinance/policy that will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2022.

Local restaurants/businesses have been looking to provide additional space for their patrons during the cold months as a way to recover from the effects of COVID-19. More and more businesses have been setting up tents on their premises for various amounts of time.

City administrative policy on temporary use permits allows staff to approve temporary uses for up to two weeks, according to the memo given to the Cedarburg Common Council on Monday. The city’s zoning ordinance allows temporary uses but it requires Landmarks (in the historic district) and Plan Commission approval. The current ordinance does not specify temporary use of tents since it has not been an issue until COVID-19. Prior to COVID19, the Stilt House was the only restaurant requesting a tent annually.

At their meeting, the Common Council agreed to allow temporary use of tents until the end of this year and will still require businesses to fill out a temporary use permit, pay the fee of $27.50 and be subject to a building and fire inspection.

The Common Council has also directed the Plan Commission to draft rules which will accommodate temporary tents subject to inspection by the fire department, Plan Commission approval and approval from the Landmarks Commission if the business is located in the historic district, between Oct. 1 and May 30.

Supporting local businesses

“I think the tents are good for Cedarburg to have them in the shoulder seasons,” said Council member Jack Arnett. “It brings people downtown. It supports the downtown businesses.”

Arnett said he doesn’t have a problem with tents being up for 60 days, which he said was the general time frame businesses had them up, but Council member Pat Thome said some tents have been up longer than that. She said the city needs to set strong parameters on tents, especially on the time frame that they can be up.

“Because if we’re going to make these an accessory structure, then they should be in full compliance including restroom facilities and everything that goes with it, which sounds like it’s over the top but I think we have to pay attention to that because that’s our job,” Thome said.

Council member Sherry Bublitz said sometimes it feels like Cedarburg and other cities put so many obstacles in the way of businesses.

“I would encourage the Plan Commission to come up with something that is a little bit more pro-business because it not only benefits the businesses but it benefits our residents who are trying to go out to dinner and they don’t have enough choices as it is … The more obstacles that we put in their way, it’s just more frustrating and they’re going to leave and we don’t want that,” Bublitz said.

Bublitz stated that she was not in favor of tents being up all year long and agreed with Arnett about allowing tents up during the shoulder seasons.

Business owners in favor of tents

BJ Homayouni, owner of Union House, asked for consistency across the board for all businesses who want to use a tent.

Michele Tietz, owner of Lime Cantina, said they had invested a lot of money into a tent that they hoped to have up for the whole winter like they had last year. She said they wouldn’t have put it up if they could only have it up for a couple of months.

Homayouni stated if they could have a tent up all year-round it would be very helpful for her business.

“We have a very small interior to our business and adding the patio has added to our business, and being able to add to the business has been part of what’s going to keep our doors open,” she said.