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Houghton facilitates outdoor dining

HOUGHTON — A move by Houghton’s City Council last night could encourage more outdoor options at city bars and restaurants. 

The Houghton City Council voted Wednesday to allow City Manager Eric Waara to give permission on a case-by-case basis for restaurants to extend liquor sales to outdoor seating. 

The state Liquor Control Commission is temporarily issuing expanded licenses, which will be operative from June 1 to October 31. 

“I’d hate to have to keep coming to the council and waiting two weeks,” Waara said. “Summer is short.”

Local bars and restaurants were allowed to resume in-person dining as part of the state’s phased reopening plan last week. Requirements include staying at no more than 50% capacity with six feet between tables. 

“With the distancing requirements placed on these businesses, they can accommodate more customers,” Waara said. 

Studies have also shown a lower risk of transmission of COVID-19 in outdoors areas.

A letter with the city’s approval will be attached to a business’s application to the Liquor Control Commission to expand its liquor license to outdoor seating. The state requires authorization from the city if the outdoor area is located on municipal space, such as a sidewalk or the parking deck. 

Waara said he is working with the Michigan Department of Transportation on how sidewalk service would work on major trunklines. 

Councilor Buck Foltz was happy the city could assist local businesses. 

“It’s very, very important for our town, everybody’s town, to get back to whatever normal is going to look like from here on out,” he said.

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