Mike Fitzharris describes downtown Holland’s outdoor seating program as a saving grace. It has allowed restaurants and shops to extend their operations outside.
He is glad that what began as a summer experiment is being extended through the fall.
“Since we have had a near perfect weather year for outdoor dining, it has made a big difference,” says Fitzharris, managing partner of Hops at 84 East. “Naturally, being Michigan, everyone loves it outside, and with the city of Holland letting us all move into some parking spaces, it has been very impactful.”
In the past, it would have been difficult to use the sidewalk because parked cars would be up against any tables on the walkway. Extending seating into the parking spaces has allowed Hops and other restaurants to have a cafe outside with a nice ambiance, including plants and fencing.
‘A hardy bunch’
Fitzharris thinks there will still be folks interested in dining outdoors even as temperatures begin to drop.
Downtown Holland retailers and restaurants have the opportunity to use the sidewalk and parking spaces adjacent to their business to do additional retail sales outdoors or to set up additional tables for outdoor dining.
“Michiganders are a hardy bunch, and I suspect they will continue to use the outdoor seating until it's jacket time,” he says.
Downtown Holland launched its outdoor expansion program in June, allowing shops and restaurants to expand their operations onto the sidewalks and parking spaces.
It was developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges faced by occupancy restrictions under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order.
While initially set to expire on Sept. 7, the highly successful program recently received City Council approval to be continued through Dec. 1.
By completing a simple online application from the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), Downtown Holland retailers and restaurants have the opportunity to use the sidewalk and parking spaces adjacent to their business to do additional retail sales outdoors or to set up additional tables for outdoor dining.
There are currently 11 stores that have applied and were approved to use sidewalk space for retail sales and six restaurants that have applied and have been approved to use parking spaces for outdoor dining.
“The outdoor expansion program in Downtown Holland has been very popular,” says DDA Coordinator Amy Sasamoto, “Both the participating businesses and the public have enjoyed the added vibrancy that the program has provided Downtown Holland this summer. Because of this, City Council unanimously approved the program to continue through Dec. 1, giving all our stakeholders an opportunity to continue to maximize their retail/restaurant space through the fall.”
There is no application deadline for Downtown Holland businesses to participate in the Outdoor Expansion Program. Interested businesses can contact the DDA at 616-355-1050 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a link to the online application.