Iowa City restaurants want city to lower patio fees to aid in pandemic recovery

Published: Apr. 24, 2022 at 10:06 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The city of Iowa City has waived patio fees for restaurants for the last two years, but now that they are back, some business owners would like to see the fees lowered.

Burger Haul, located on the Pedestrian Mall, opened in the early days of the pandemic. Yolanda Robinson, the restaurant’s owners, said that she has loved making flame-broiled burgers but didn’t love paying thousands in patio fees while still dealing with the residual effects of the pandemic.

“We’re feeling the effects more than ever,” Robinson said. “We still have to deal with the high delivery costs, people aren’t going out as much, and staffing.”

Robinson is not the only one paying so her customers can enjoy a burger outside. More than 30 other restaurants and cafés pay the city to use its right–of–way.

“Smaller patios might cost $1,500 to $1,600, very-large ones might cost $3,000 to $4,000,” Joe Reilly, the “nighttime mayor” for the Iowa City Downtown District organization, said. “It all depends on what type of patio and what type of space you’re occupying.”

Reilly said the city asked his organization to identify ways they could help businesses, and lowering those fees was one of the answers.

“Our city waived those fees for the past two years, so there’s something that can be worked on,” Reilly said. “The city just needs to identify it.”

Robinson said that she is going to continue to cook up her burgers while the city decides if those fees should be lowered.

“The restaurants have been hit so much over the past two years,” Robinson said. “They need any support they can get.”

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