Brookfield officials have scaled back plans to expand outdoor dining in the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard this summer, opting now for closing down the street to traffic one weekend a month instead of every weekend.
The move comes in response to the owners of the non-restaurant/bar businesses in Brookfield’s downtown, who said depriving them of convenient parking for their customers would be ruinous if imposed for a second consecutive summer.
“I lost 75 to 80 percent of my Saturday business because of the street closure,” Chris Borzym, the owner of Christopher Mark Fine Flowers at 3742 Grand Blvd, told trustees at the village board’s committee of the whole meeting on March 22.
“If you go ahead with shutting any of this down, I will either have to close or I will have to move,” Borzym said. “I cannot afford another summer of this.”
Morey Dunbar, owner of Painted Studio at 3744 Grand Blvd., painted a similar picture, saying the weekend street closures last summer essentially shut down her business.
“I never had a single customer on a Saturday [during the 2020 street closures]; I barely had a customer on Fridays,” said Dunbar. “So cutting us off from parking is huge. I’m a new business. I’ve been here two years. If you cut me off, I have to move somewhere else. I don’t have an option, because I have to be available for my suppliers and my customers.
“We’re more than happy to help the other businesses, but they have to help us, too.”
It had appeared as if Brookfield was going to reprise last year’s popular move to shut down the southern half of the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard from Friday morning through early Monday morning every weekend.
On March 1, some business owners attended a meeting convened by Village Manager Timothy Wiberg at the village hall – primarily restaurant/bar owners – who preferred the weekend shutdowns to a proposal that would have blocked off parking spaces and kept the street open to traffic.
After news of that preference spread, the non-restaurant/bar business owners along the south half of the block made it clear they opposed a repeat of last summer.
“If you take away my parking you’re taking away my livelihood,” said Ray Kobelt, owner of Snails to Tails Pet Center at 3744½ Grand Blvd.
Based on that additional input from business owners on Grand Boulevard, Stevie Ferrari, the village’s recreation director, said the plan would be to close the southern half of the block to traffic on the last weekend of the month, from June through September.
Like last year, barricades would go up early Friday morning. That will allow the village to erect a stage at the south end of the block to provide live entertainment throughout Saturday, beginning in the morning with family programming and wrapping up at night with a concert.
The live entertainment aspect of the plan is contingent on state reopening guidelines and could be scrapped if COVID-19 metrics still will not allow for large public outdoor gatherings.
Keeping the closures to the last weekend of each month will also mean barricades would not remain in place on Monday holidays, such as Labor Day.
Although outdoor dining will be expanded into the streets only one weekend a month, restaurants and bars will still be able to use public sidewalks and new paved bump outs at the south end of the street and midblock.
Non-restaurant/bar business owners also implored village officials to crack down on diners and drinkers wandering away from their tables with beer cans and bottles in hand and, sometimes, stashing the empties in planters.
They suggested that those businesses do a better job cleaning up after their patrons instead of leaving them a confronting a mess on Monday mornings. There was even some call for more bike racks and perhaps a more visible police presence to cut down on kids riding bikes on the sidewalks and leaning the bikes against store windows.
Dunbar said kids throwing baseballs and football around was also a problem, and that errant throws ended up hitting her storefront windows.
“This was supposed to be for dining, it wasn’t supposed to be a free-for-all,” Dunbar said.
Trustees appeared sympathetic to those concerns, saying they would seek to get some bike racks to the area and try to educate bar/restaurant owners about the need to keep patrons at their tables and encourage them to do more to clean up at the end of the night.
“We’re providing [restaurants and bars] a benefit,” said Village President Kit Ketchmark. “It should not be up to the other businesses to clean up their garbage.”