ROCHESTER, Minn. - The Rochester City Council extended the outdoor dining program through October, but some restaurant owners might not be taking advantage of it.
A big reason that's the case is because some downtown bar and restaurant owners are worried more about having enough parking spaces versus having enough seating. You might remember the parklet located on the corner right outside Nellie's on Third. That helped significantly when it came to sitting people outside. Then when the city stepped in and offered the outdoor seating program, they were able to have six more tables thanks to utilizing parking spaces - as were a lot of the restaurants - which created more business.
The general manager of Nellie's, Kelly Amundson, said they're still debating if taking advantage of the outdoor seating program this year is worth it as restrictions are more in their favor now. "We're kind of waiting to see what everybody else on the block wants to do. We obviously don't want to take parking spaces from downtown, but we also know we have to do what's best for our business," she explained. "If we can generate more revenue with more tables, but we also know parking is a big struggle for downtown." However, the parklet doesn't sit there anymore. Staff at nellies actually donated it to Cameo Restaurant and that's part of why they're still thinking about the next steps.
Almost two weeks ago, Minnesota bars and restaurants were able to welcome more guests back inside. As for the increase on capacity, Amundson explained it's not that much of a difference for them. "Really hoping that this summer, we get to be open fully. Have our staff back full-time. That's the biggest thing," she said. "We're open 75% and still tables 6 ft. apart. In our space, we can't have a full capacity or even 75% of what we normally would just for how the configuration is."
The expansion of outdoor seating for bars and restaurants in Rochester will continue through October of this year or until the end of the state emergency declaration - whichever occurs later.