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Patio city pumps up business

BY MICHAEL KADRIE | JUNE 30, 2014 5:00 AM

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Once the weather gets warm in Iowa City, many restaurants set up outdoor patios to take advantage of the temperatures, and some restaurant officials say it has had a positive effect on their business.

Nodo Downtown, 5 S. Dubuque St., put up its patio at the beginning of this month, and it has helped the restaurant stand out. The establishment opened its downtown location in August 2013.

“People love it; it’s brought more attention to our small storefront,” Nodo co-owner Josh Silver said.

However, Silver said he doesn’t know if the restaurant is busier than ever because of the nice weather and outdoor seating. He said the recent increase in the number of patrons could be attributed to people becoming more aware of the predominately sandwich-focused shop.

There are more than 15 businesses in the Downtown District that have outdoor seating — and applying for outdoor seating is not too restrictive.

Restaurant owners have to fill out an application, which then needs the approval and signatures of the City Council. Depending on the kind of operating license the owners hold, they may require the endorsement of their insurance company as well.

Applicants also must provide the names and addresses of all abutting properties and every other property in 100 feet of the property.  Additionally, they must provide a notice in clear public view announcing their intention of establishing a patio 10 days before the matter is up for a vote.

Beyond observing occupancy limits, applicants must construct a “suitable barrier,” to be no fewer than 3 feet and no more than 8 feet tall.

With patio seating, some businesses said summer is one of their busiest seasons.

Abigail Mason-Marshall, assistant dining room manager for Atlas, said summer is its biggest season. 

Mason-Marshall said she estimates sales have increased by at least one-third or have even doubled.

Atlas’s patio doubles the seating, which in turn causes it to double the staff. 

“It’s surprising, because students are gone,” Mason-Marshall said.

Atlas has even upgraded its patio seating by installing an extendable awning to allow it to keep the patio open in case of inclement weather.

Summer also brings in a whole new crowd to downtown, said Adam Peters, the manager of Micky’s Irish Pub.

“Once the college kids leave, the permanent residents come back out,” Peters said.  “We see all these new faces.”

However, not every business reports an increase in sales during the summer months.

Peters said Micky’s is about as busy as it is at other times during the year. 

Employees also said they noticed a lot of potential customers from summer festivals, such as the Jazz Festival this coming weekend, as well as from such sporting events as the World Cup.

But no matter what is happening downtown, patio seating will continue to be a popular choice for area businesses.

“If it’s a nice day out, it’s always full, “ Peters said.


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