KellerGeist, city experiment with parking spot dining area

Outdoor dining is expanding into parking spots on Central Avenue in front of KellerGeist Pub Theater.

Matthias Schalper, one of the owners, has been constructing a picket fence around two parking spots in front of their bar, with some additional structure he’s using to install canvas shades.

He started on it last week and people have been dining and drinking in the space this week.

The idea is to help their operations under COVID-19 restrictions so they have space to allow patrons to spread six feet apart and reduce the virus’ spread by being outdoors, Schalper said.

KellerGeist has been busy when they’re open, Schalper said, so the expanded dining is safer for patrons and helps keep the business operational.

Nationally, some cities have closed streets or parking lots to allow restaurants to spread dining outdoors in an effort to help those businesses stay afloat during the COVID-19 restrictions.

The outdoor dining required a sidewalk cafe permit, which is free, from the city and paying the courtesy rate for the two parking spots while KellerGeist is using them through the end of October.

The courtesy parking program is $400 annually for each space on Central Avenue and $300 annually for spaces within the Downtown Parking Management District but not on Central Avenue.

“The city was really helpful and we bounced around ideas to make it work,” Schalper said.

“This is like a spot you would see in New Orleans,” Schalper said and he hopes the idea catches on with other restaurants and bars adding them along Central Avenue, each with their own character.

Craig Raymond, city planning director, said he’s thinks it’s possible the idea could catch on since it might be cheaper than other pedlet designs, but there is still a requirement to provide equivalent ADA seating.

Raymond said KellerGeist was able to do that fairly easily since they already had space on the sidewalk level.

Others, if not similarly situated, may have to build a ramp from the sidewalk level to the street level, Raymond said.

“We are also going to keep an eye on how many of these get installed and if it has any negative impact on available on-street parking. Right now I would say it’s not a problem, but we are starting to think about where to draw the line or if we draw a line at all,” Raymond said.

It’s possible, he said, that if the idea grows, some may not like it or feel it impedes their ability to do business, so it’s something to watch.