Patios In Peril: A Plea

Does Fullerton allow businesses to succeed?While Brea expands their sidewalk dining, what does Fullerton do?

Al Fresco dining has been an issue in downtown for so many years. As many downtown businesses remember, the city began this process with inviting arms. Then a small business in the downtown area took advantage of the situation and things went beyond the control of the city. At that point, the powers that be decided against outdoor dining all together which went on for about 5 years. A year ago or so the city became open again to providing outdoor dining for Fullertonians and business owners.  

I myself have fought long and hard to initiate the acceleration of this process. We are now at the very last bit of agreement and this is what this story is about. I am interested in sharing the small business owner aspect of this issue with other Fullertonians so that we may all understand what the issues are.

City of Fullerton has decided that they would like to charge a monthly lease to all small businesses with alfresco dining. The rate differs if you have a fence or if you are fenceless. Although both rates are high, the amount is not the issue. The issue for us is that charging a monthly lease is unfair, & unreasonable for the following reasons.

  1. Generally speaking, when there is a monthly charge, there is usually a product or service being provided in return. We small business owners receive absolutely nothing from the city in either form. We were responsible for putting in our own fences, purchasing our own furniture, providing plans & a permit fee of $572.00 to the city, & the upkeep of our areas with no assistance whatsoever from the city.  
  2. There are days where patios are completely useless due to weather. It could be because it’s too cold, too hot, too windy or it’s raining. Charging for days where we cannot use the patio is ridiculous and unacceptable. We may think that those days are few but they are not, Since November, we were not able to use the patio a total of 29 full days. That is an entire months worth.
  3. The initial reason for even thinking about putting a fence in was due to the fact that the space available was problematic on the weekends where partiers thought it was a good open space for fighting and access to vandalizing our windows was quick.  Since the fence, we have not had a single fight in our area (because there is no room to fight) and our windows have not been again vandalized. Neither the city nor the landlord is willing to assist with the costs associated with repairs so it falls on the business owner. If you ask me, I think the city should pay us for taking a couple of small things off the hands of our very understaffed police department. 
  4. Although it is not a large amount of money, the city indirectly does benefit from outdoor dining via taxes. We pay a yearly tax to the city based on our sales. Obviously if there is outdoor seating available to customers and the weather permits, that is where they will dine. More customers more taxes for the city.  So they do get paid.
  5. There are areas where the city has built enormous size sidewalk s that have never been used to their full capacity. There is no amount of pedestrian traffic in downtown to justify the size.  So we as taxpayers basically paid for concrete that was not necessary and not used. I believe that all Fullertonians would like to see that their tax dollars are now actually benefiting the community as opposed to just having a 30 foot wide useless sidewalk.

I understand that the city has to put in some administrative hours in order to make al fresco dining happen for small businesses, and the business owners should pay for those hours. So here is the suggestion that has been made to council: There should be a yearly permit fee that businesses need to pay. That yearly permit fee my go up if CPI allows for it. The permit fee is a set price for each individual business based on the size and circumstance. These fees should suffice to pay for city admin. Any charge above that is unjustified. Whatever issues there are to deal with should be embedded and regulated by the contract and not by charging unjust leases because the charges are not going to resolve the issues. 

Our Fullerton is a great little town with so much potential in attracting the desirable clientele and I believe outdoor dining is a great start.  Any business interested in offering al fresco dining to their clients should be encouraged not punished. Tuesday March 20th is the hopefully last council meeting about this particular issue. I am hoping for your support as citizens of fullerton.

 Note: City Council Meeting Tuesday, March 20th City Council Chambers City Hall 303 W Commonwealth Fullerton

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