By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – Minimum off-street parking requirements for restaurants, taverns, supper clubs, cocktail lounges and nightclubs are being relaxed under an ordinance amendment approved last month by the village board.
Community Development Director Aaron Schuette said Ashwaubenon’s code required those businesses to have at least one off-street parking space for every two people, based on maximum capacity, plus one space for every employee.
Schuette said the amendment is intended to “rightsize our parking requirements for restaurants, et al, as indicated in the ordinance.”
“This came about as a result of some of the COVID issues and the desire for outdoor patios for seating,” he said. “A few of the restaurants approached me and asked, ‘We’d like to put a patio in, and how do we do that?’”
In a couple of instances, Schuette said outdoor patios could not be put in because it would reduce the amount of parking below the village’s minimum standard.
He said the research he did related to restaurants in Green Bay, De Pere, Appleton, Wausau and Oshkosh showed Ashwaubenon “came out the highest out of all of those reviewed.”
Schuette said the amendment changes the requirements to one parking space for every three people at maximum interior seating capacity, plus one space per 500 square feet of exterior seating area “to better reflect current uses of how people now use rideshare, biking, walking.”
“The reality is the numbers that were used (by the village) were typically used from the 1950s federal guidance, when, again, cars and big parking lots were all the rage,” he said. “That’s just not the case anymore.”
Jordan Saunders of Parker Johns BBQ and Pizza spoke in favor of the ordinance amendment.
“We have four locations here in Wisconsin, our newest one here in town,” he said. “Two of our four locations did some huge patio expansion projects this past year. I think COVID is definitely a catalyst behind this with the need and the want for guests to have an outdoor dining option.”
At the Ashwaubenon location, Saunders said he would like to add an outdoor patio to the north the building.
“Currently (the north of the building is) just used as a drive-through,” he said.
Schuette said Heartland Pizza also supported the amendment.
He said any permanent outdoor patio would have to be reviewed by the Site Plan Review Committee for approval.
Schuette said the committee, which recommended the amendment, also wants village staff to look into the possibility of dedicating a few off-street parking spaces for taxis and rideshare programs to have pick-up and drop-off areas.
“From a staff standpoint, I think it is a good idea,” he said. “I believe (the) planning commission also agreed that was something we should be looking at.”