EFFINGHAM — The City of Effingham has given downtown businesses more options to offer their customers — outdoor seating.
Village Wine and Gifts offers outdoor seating in downtown Effingham overlooking traffic on West Jefferson Avenue from the rooftop of one of its buildings.
General Manager Robin Anderson said Village Wine is taking advantage of the ground-level outdoor seating, creating an area to accommodate more outdoor guests. She said the outdoor seating area will be furnished with commercial-grade outdoor furniture. During the winter months, Anderson said the furniture will be kept inside.
Special permits and specifics for the outdoor seating must be approved by Mayor Mike Schutzbach, who is also the Effingham Liquor Commissioner. So far, Effing Brew, Village Wine and Gopher’s Grill have all submitted applications for this use.
Meanwhile, all of the documentation for Effing Brew and Village Wine have been completed and approved, city officials said Monday. The city is only waiting on final documentation from Gopher’s Grill for its sidewalk cafe to be utilized.
Effing Brew already had some outdoor seating on its own private property, but now it has expanded and doubled the amount of outdoor seats.
That business relocated a fence 10 feet onto the city’s right of way for additional outdoor seating.
Effing Brew co-owner Aric Cornell said having the outdoor seating provides another dining experience.
Cornell said prior to the reconstruction at Jefferson and Banker, where the business is located, its outdoor seating was in a long strip, what he described as more like a hallway along the building.
“I like the idea of outdoor seating,” said Cornell. “It gives us a little more of an urban feel — more like the way Champaign and Chicago does their outdoor seating. It gives more options for us.”
Effing Brew microbrewery and restaurant already offered seating for 18 outdoors, but it has now doubled with the new outdoor cafe arrangement.
“If there’s nice weather here, we’d like to be able to utilize it,” said Cornell. “This will give customers a better dining experience.”
Much of the legwork and design work for the Jefferson Avenue project happened during the past city administration under Mayor Jeff Bloemker, but the work was bid by the current council.
The road reconstruction project cost $935,460.
“The city has been great to work with,” said Gopher Grill’s co-owner Nick Schuette.
Schuette believes outdoor seating is going to be a good thing for the restaurant, which is located along Jefferson Avenue.
“I think outside seating is a nice draw to the restaurant and downtown,” Schuette said. “People really enjoy eating outside when weather permits.”
The ever-changing weather conditions in Illinois is one of his concerns.
“Hopefully, the weather cooperates and people are able to utilize it,” Schuette said.
Schuette said the city requires the restaurant to install a wrought-iron fence around the designated seating area and use heavy-duty furniture in the outdoor dining area.
“You don’t want to have tables blowing all over the place,” Schuette said.