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Benson Council proposing sidewalk café ordinance to attract downtown commerce

BENSON -- The Benson City Council is discussing an ordinance that would allow outdoor cafés on downtown sidewalks and possibly attract more city commerce.

Rob Wolfington said Wednesday the City Council looked over a first reading of an ordinance that would allow downtown businesses to have bistro-style dining on the sidewalks outside their storefronts.

"When you go down into Hennepin Avenue in the Cities, you know all the little bistro restaurants have sidewalk cafés," Wolfington said. "We're trying to do the same thing to promote commerce and improve the nightlife and color of the downtown."

Wolfington said Benson has a couple downtown businesses that have big enough sidewalks to permit the addition of flower fences, umbrellas and bistro tables. Wolfington said he wasn't sure just how many businesses would embrace the ordinance.

"One for sure and probably more is the best way to say it," Wolfington said. "But there are a few I think that have enough room."

Benson will have a second reading of the ordinance at its next regular meeting. According to the League of Minnesota Cities Web site, the city will then publish the ordinance in its official newspaper and wait 30 days before it becomes law.

In other matters:

- Benson will experience two power outages on Saturday as the city switches from an old substation to a new one. The city has been working on the electric substation and a new main power feed over the past year.

- The Benson City Council will discuss a reconstruction project regarding the central business sidewalk at its next regular meeting. The city set aside $180,000 for the 2½-block repair and improvement project for the central businesses area.

- Wolfington said Benson has a few projects slated for the summer, "but nothing monumental." He said, "We're hunkered down like everyone else, trying to create a culture of savings."