FLINT, MI– The Flint City Council is considering a resolution at its Monday, June 8, meeting that would close certain parts of Saginaw and Martin Luther King Jr. streets to help businesses safely reopen after the cornonavirus shutdown.
Restaurants were given the green light to reopen with restrictions, including reduced dining room capacity and social distancing, by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer beginning June 8. Now, Mayor Sheldon Neeley is requesting two streets in Flint partially shut to traffic to allow businesses to safely reopen while adding outside seating for more customer capacity. The city council meeting can be livestreamed at 5:30 p.m. on YouTube.
Joshua Spencer, owner of Café Rhema in downtown Flint, said passing the resolution would “be very helpful.”
Café Rhema opened three weeks ago for pickup orders and is now transitioning to inside and outdoor dining. Spencer said there is limited seating indoors and he’s trying to increase outdoor seating options.
“We’re trying to be as creative as possible with our space. (Passing the resolution) would definitely help draw more people downtown,” Spencer said.
Increased outdoor seating will help businesses during lunch and evening rush hours, Spencer said
“That’s where the outdoor seating will help the most. That way we have ample seating,” Spencer said.
It would also allow businesses an opportunity to make as much money as they did before the pandemic.
“Just because we’re open doesn’t mean we’re given the opportunity to make the same amount of money we did before the pandemic,” Spencer said.
Partially shutting down the streets would make reopening businesses downtown fairer, Spencer said. Certain restaurants and businesses may be privy to more outdoor seating because of their location. Café Rhema, located on 432 South Saginaw Street, isn’t afforded the same opportunity, according to Spencer.
Spencer said another issue for the city council to consider is parking. The cafe owner said he’s had a dozen customers get ticketed for parking curbside to pick up their orders. Spencer has worked those citations out with the Flint Down Development Authority.
Spencer suggested either a grace period for customers or a designated spot in front of businesses for curbside pickup.
The city council will also vote whether to reappoint Allen Gilbert, a resident in Ward 6, as the Ethics and Accountability Board chair.
Along with an 11-member Ethics and Accountability Board, the ombudsperson operates as a non-political third party fielding complaints from residents and overseeing ethics among officials in the council, mayor’s office and other city employees.
The city council amended Neeley’s proposed budget on June 2 to include $250,000 for the ombudsperson’s office after it mistakenly cut more than half of the office’s funds.