PORT ANGELES — Restaurants and other curbside businesses will have more room to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic under measures taken by the Port Angeles City Council.
The council voted 7-0 Tuesday to pass two resolutions that will make it easier for businesses to use private parking lots and city right-of-way to serve customers while physical distancing restrictions are in place.
“Hopefully the weather will cooperate and we’ll see some outside eating that hasn’t existed before soon,” Mayor Kate Dexter said after the vote.
The resolutions ratified City Manager Nathan West’s July 16 orders to suspend certain municipal code requirements for commercial parking spaces and to waive the $75 fee for commercial right-of-way permits. The actions will allow businesses to serve customers in parking areas and on city-approved sidewalks with no fee.
“Basically, what we’re doing is allowing some of our businesses to stretch,” West told the council in a four-hour meeting Tuesday.
The resolutions will be in place for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I hope a lot of businesses will take advantage of this, because I love to go out and eat, and I don’t quite feel comfortable going into a restaurant yet,” Council Member Charlie McCaughan said at the meeting.
McCaughan said he and his wife recently dined al fresco outside a Port Townsend restaurant.
“They came out and waited on us and kind of made us feel normal again, so I look forward to this happening in the city and increasing business for our shop owners and restaurants,” McCaughan said.
Previously, the council had voted to provide utility bill relief for customers and waived Parking and Business Improvement Area (PBIA) fees though the third quarter of this year.
“Ultimately, last week we took some additional steps that we also feel will be effective in helping businesses meet the governor’s phased approach during the COVID recovery,” West said.
City officials were working with the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce on other ways to support businesses during the pandemic, West said.
Chamber Executive Director Marc Abshire he supported the move to provide more space for customers.
“We’re in times now where we have to be innovative and do things a little differently,” Abshire said in a Thursday interview.
“We really appreciate the city waiving some of the fees to do some of these things, and relaxing the code a little bit to help the businesses serve their customers more safely.”
“It’s one of several things the city’s done recently to help us out,” Abshire added.
City parks staff has provided bistro tables and chairs at Conrad Dyer Memorial Fountain and The Gateway transit center plaza downtown, West said.
“I think it’s important to share an overarching goal, though, is to make sure we’re supporting all businesses in the city of Port Angeles, not just our downtown,” West said.
Council member Brendan Meyer said the actions taken for COVID-19 may improve the city’s walkability after the pandemic.
“This could be a blessing in disguise for downtown businesses,” Meyer said.
In other COVID-related action, the council voted unanimously to direct staff to draft a letter to county Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank to waive state bidding requirements during the pandemic to give preference to local contractors, where possible, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Meyer proposed the action.
“If something comes up where we have a local bidder who is responsive, who is responsible and who is within a reasonable margin, we should choose that bidder, even if they cost a little bit more, because that will reduce the risk of the transmission of COVID-19,” Council member Mike French said. “I think that this is a no-brainer.”
Earlier in the meeting, the council voted unanimously to approve two ordinances recognizing the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day and June 19 as Juneteenth.
The council had previously passed resolutions recognizing the unofficial holidays, which celebrate Native American culture and the freeing of enslaved peoples in 1865, respectively.
“I want to make sure that the public knows that we’re not doing this just to signal our virtue or just to make some sort of culture war point,” French said.
Council member Navarra Carr emphasized the “importance of being and feeling seen.”
“I hope that these ordinances are a place to start that, and that people of color in Port Angeles and in Clallam County see that their elected officials know that they’re here, and see them and value them and honor them,” Carr said.
“This certainly isn’t the only thing we can do, but it is a place to start.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].