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Wildwood suspends ordinances to allow expanded outdoor seating areas

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On May 20, the Wildwood City Council was notified by Mayor Jim Bowlin via email that he had authorized the suspension of city ordinances to allow restaurants, pubs and coffee shops within the city’s limit to expand their outdoor seating areas to adjacent parking lots or other approved areas.

The added space will serve as a means to comply with safety regulations and social distancing mandates. However, another consideration in adding capacity is helping restaurants and similar businesses recuperate lost sales after being closed or having limited hours for an extended period of time.

In a follow-up with West Newsmagazine, Bowlin said the idea came from a combination of personal observation and inquiries from local businesses.

“I’d been thinking about making this a reality for the past three or four days, and then I was in conversation with our city administrator and he mentioned that there were some restaurants that had inquired about it,” Bowlin said. “So I thought, ‘Well, I want to finalize it.'”

According to Bowlin, another goal of his action is to encourage businesses to host more outdoor special events on their properties, including drive-in movie nights or outdoor music concerts. 

“Each case is going to be different, but the gist of it is that it’s going to allow businesses to have a greater volume of customers while protecting those customers and promoting the safety of those customers through social distancing,” Bowlin said. “So it helps our residents that choose this opportunity to come to those businesses for a meal or drink or what have you, and it also promotes the business in terms of the volume of their business plan, allowing them to serve more than just a few people.”

The mayor’s action coincides with recommendations from St. Louis County.

On May 21, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 update said that gathering in outdoor spaces is a way for families and residents to get out safely while allowing for more social distance.

While outdoor events are encouraged, it should be noted that all other ordinances pertaining to excessive noise or other disturbances will remain in effect and be enforced by local law enforcement.

“They’ll also need parking places for those customers,” Bowlin said. “We can’t have people parking in unauthorized places. But we plan to look at these on a case-by-case basis and cross those other bridges as we come to them.”

The mayor’s action was authorized by Emergency Resolution 2020-11, which was passed by the council on March 23 and outlined multiple citywide provisions for conducting business for the duration of the crisis. That same resolution also authorized Bowlin to direct City Administrator Sam Anselm to suspend the enforcement of certain ordinances of the city for the duration of the pandemic.

Other initiatives that have come from this resolution included the purchase and installation of small cell technology for high-speed internet access on a provisional basis and the closure of trailhead parking lots earlier in the year to prevent overcrowding at local parks.

“It [Resolution 2020-11] gives the flexibility to meet these situations as they come up and provide immediate relief to our residents and our businesses,” Bowlin said.

The current plan is for the additional seating allowance to remain in effect through Oct. 1 or until the expiration of St. Louis County’s COVID-19 Emergency Order. The suspension may stay in effect beyond Oct. 1 if the county’s emergency order remains in effect as of that date.

The guidelines for this expanded seating measure are currently being codified and will be provided to the council and participating establishments in the near future.

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