While Miners Saloon and Golden Moon Speakeasy won’t have outdoor seating this fall, city officials and business owners are hoping to figure out a summertime space activation plan by April.
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During the Sept. 13 City Council meeting, councilors directed staff to work out a plan with Miners Alley businesses and other stakeholders. Staff would then bring this plan to council in spring so it can be implemented for summer 2023.
Last month, City Council decided against continuing a one-year pilot program to host outdoor seating areas in the 1100 block of Miners Alley. The goal was to reopen the alleyway to all traffic after Labor Day. The councilors said they wanted to activate the space long-term and were open to revisiting the conversation in the future.
However, the business owners argued to keep the outdoor seating this fall, saying customers now expect it. Plus, with other businesses along Washington Avenue hosting outdoor seating through October — through a separate city program for dining in parking spaces — the owners felt Golden had created a system of winners and losers.
Despite attempts to change the councilors’ minds, the two businesses took down their outdoor seating after Labor Day. Miners Saloon received special right-of-way permits for two contracted events this fall, officials confirmed.
Aimee and Dean Valdez, who own Miners Saloon and the speakeasy’s building, said during public comment Sept. 13 that closing the outdoor seating with such short notice was a major blow to the employees and the business.
“It felt like someone took a two-by-four to my head,” Dean Valdez told City Council. “ … We respectfully ask that, starting now, you start reaching out and proactively working with (businesses) … before problems come about.”
The two also reiterated how reopening the alleyway to vehicular traffic has been dangerous for pedestrians, and hoped the city would consider closing the street to vehicles long-term.
The councilors told staff that issue should be considered when devising the summertime activation plan.
Councilor Bill Fisher believed this section of Miners Alley will go through several phases of activation in the coming years, as Foothills Art Center and Miners Alley Playhouse work on their nearby renovation projects at the Astor House and Meyer Hardware building, respectively. These temporary summertime arrangements can then transition into some longer-term plans for the space, such as a permanent arts district or plaza design, he and others described.
“I think we can activate some of (the alley) by June,” Fisher said. “ … (But) both Foothills and Miners Alley Playhouse won’t be done building out by June.”
Regarding outdoor dining throughout downtown, Councilors Paul Haseman and Don Cameron both said they wanted to reevaluate the outdoor seating along Washington Avenue.
Haseman believed there should be some consistency between businesses using public space for outdoor seating, noting how the Miners Alley businesses had to close theirs after Labor Day while the others are open through October.
Cameron added: “Maybe it’s time to have that conversation.”
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