Restaurants get a break on sewer fees

A cut in required fees could drive more outdoor business.

by Allison Hugill

The Metropolitan Council voted Thursday to reduce one-time fees restaurants pay when they open or remodel an area for additional seating by 75 percent. Prior to the reduction, restaurants just opening or remodeling would have had to pay a $2,000 fee depending on the maximum occupancy of the new seating area. The fees are imposed by the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services to pay for a new sanitary sewer system that the new seating areas would use. However, many bar and restaurant owners were upset at the costs imposed, deterring some bar owners from having outdoor seating. Terry Keegan , owner of KeeganâÄôs Irish Pub in Northeast Minneapolis, had a patio in summer 2008 that could seat 40 people, but he closed it when the city of Minneapolis told him it was not legal. He was told in August 2008 that he would have to pay a total of $7,200 for his patio seating area. âÄúThis year I didnâÄôt put up a patio at all and it hurt business,âÄù he said. Keegan protested the charges and spoke at a hearing on the subject six weeks ago. In response to the Met CouncilâÄôs decision, he said a 75 percent reduction is pretty good, and that he will have a patio next spring. Danny Schwartzman , owner of Common Roots Cafe in Uptown, remodeled the restaurant and had to pay charges for an increase in seating. âÄúIâÄôm fine with restaurants having to invest in the water system and sewer system, but certainly reducing fees makes sense because outdoor seating is different than indoor seating,âÄù he said. âÄúOutside youâÄôre only using seats for half of the year.âÄù He says the 75 percent cut will encourage people who are thinking of expanding to add outdoor seating. Amy Rowland and her husband bought The Bulldog in Northeast Minneapolis from the previous owners, so they avoided having to pay a fee. âÄúAs a business owner itâÄôs painful to pay those fees,âÄù she said. âÄúThey [the city] get far more from sales taxes from a business running successfully than they do from the fees.âÄù The discount will be available as of October 1 for certain outdoor areas that will be exposed to unfavorable weather conditions.