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City, business officials discuss sidewalk cafes

August 23, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - City of Hagerstown officials met Wednesday with the Washington County Board of License Commissioners to discuss a proposal that would let a handful of business owners open sidewalk cafs downtown.

Hagerstown Planning Director Kathleen Maher said she started researching the idea after the city recently decided to widen sidewalks in the first block of South Potomac Street.

That project involves replacing parking spaces with sidewalks, city engineer Rodney Tissue said.

Maher told the commissioners that the city staff has been researching laws in other municipalities, including Annapolis and Frederick, where sidewalk cafs have enjoyed success.

She passed out documents that said Annapolis, for example, requires caf owners to maintain at least 6 feet of unobstructed sidewalk space for pedestrians to pass.

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In other cities, caf owners must set up barriers on the sidewalk to isolate customers from the public, documents said.

Robert L. Everhart, chairman of the Washington County Board of License Commissioners, said only a few downtown businesses with adequate sidewalk space would be allowed to open cafs, likely the ones on Public Square and the stretch of restaurants on South Potomac Street where the sidewalk is slated for widening.

Those businesses would have to get permits from the city and liquor board to run a sidewalk caf, which would have to offer prepared food to prevent an alcohol-only environment, Everhart said.

Tissue said after the meeting the city wants to choose a contractor in October to widen the sidewalk on South Potomac Street.

Until that project is finished, he said city officials would continue to explore the caf issue, and possibly have attorneys draft a plan for the Hagerstown City Council's approval. Tissue did not know the time frame.

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