DULUTH – Local officials are hoping to roll back regulations to give businesses extra leeway to use sidewalks and private parking lots as they adapt practices amid the ongoing pandemic.
Mayor Emily Larson is asking Duluth’s City Council to approve a measure that will waive fees and accelerate certain review processes to enable restaurants and retailers to get creative as they mull how to sustain business in a way that’s safe for customers.
“The intent is to allow for greater ability to quickly establish social distancing practices at local businesses and to allow for new business innovations — such as curbside pickup areas — on a temporary basis,” Larson said at a virtual news conference Wednesday.
The change to city code would last through Dec. 31. The City Council will vote on the resolution at its meeting Monday.
Restaurants and retailers suffered some of the biggest financial blows as they were forced to shut down at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak. Duluth officials have said they could lose up to 75% of the $12 million they expected this year in tourism tax revenue, which is collected from a levy on hotels and restaurants.
Kristi Stokes, president of Duluth’s Greater Downtown Council, said the move highlights a “willingness to be flexible and supportive at a time when our businesses need it the most.” Establishments that serve tourists are still hoping to see visitors taking trips to the city this summer.
“We’re going to see a need for expanded outdoor dining, as well as some retail on the sidewalk,” Stokes said. “These measures streamline the process and make it easier for businesses to utilize additional outdoor space.”