Ready to dine al fresco? Downtown restaurants get seating waiver

As the mercury climbed above 60 degrees over the weekend, customers at Los Tres Amigos dined on the downtown Farmington restaurant’s patio.

But John Cowley & Sons owner Greg Cowley, who also sits on Farmington city council, said he had to keep his customers from dragging chairs outside. The difference? Cowley’s outdoor seating rests on a public sidewalk, while the Los Tres Amigos patio is private property.

On Monday, city officials temporarily moved the limits of an existing ordinance to allow all Farmington restaurants to take advantage of Mother Nature’s winter warm-up. Economic and Community Development Director Kevin Christiansen said the city has in previous years extended the end of the season but has not moved the opening date back from March 1.

“I don’t think it’s inappropriate of you to authorize the use of a public sidewalk,” city attorney Tom Schultz said, noting that officials are simply giving permission for the use of public property.

“Los Tres Amigos was packed outside over the weekend,” council member Sara Bowman said. “Obviously, we need to be flexible with providing for the needs of our customers.”

Council member Jeff Scott said he hopes businesses take advantage of outdoor seating while handling it appropriately if the weather takes another turn. But Mayor Bill Galvin wondered whether the temperature should make any difference at all.

“If somebody wants to sit out there when it’s 30 degrees, who am I to stop them?” he said.

The initial request to move the date came from Cowley, city manager David Murphy said, but Christiansen noted several other downtown businesses had contacted him for the same reason.

Officials also voted to refer a review of the outdoor seating ordinance to the Planning Commission.