Sterling Heights

Sterling Heights launches new program to turn the city 'inside out' during reopening

For Pashko Ujkaj, owner of Dodge Park Coney Island in Sterling Heights, new city regulations will make all the difference to his small business as he reopens his restaurant. Restricted by COVID-19-related rules concerning proximity and indoor seating, Ujkaj's business is one of the many dining establishments reliant on navigating city applications for expanded seating outdoors.

To support local businesses as they reopen, Sterling Heights has launched a new program that streamlines applications and encourage businesses to "Turn Sterling Heights Inside Out".

The city is providing an Inside Out self evaluation form and conditions guide to help businesses pivot as they reopen and is relaxing the review process, expediting approvals, and reducing the application fee for businesses that would like to expand their existing operations to the outdoors from now through September 30.

“I appreciate the city for thinking outside of the box to provide outside seating," said Ujkaj. "Businesses will benefit from making up for lost seating inside due to recent guidelines.”

“Offering this program will make it easier for business owners to get through these challenging times.”

An existing business owner is required to provide a drawing or pictures of the proposed outdoor sales and service area, fill out the application package, and submit the information electronically to the city. Business owners should know about approvals within three days and can then schedule the appropriate inspections.

Economic development officer Luke Bonner knows just how important small businesses are to Sterling Heights.

“In these difficult times, we know retailers, restaurants and other affected businesses are champing at the bit to get back to full capacity,” said Luke Bonner, Sterling Heights senior economic development advisor.

“For many of them, their business is their life or their family, not just a job," Bonner said. "Commercial businesses make up our community character, and we need to support them in new ways. The Inside Out program is allowing them to engage their customers in new and exciting ways that may not have been possible before."

City officials hope outdoor services will provide safe alternatives to traditional service delivery models and assist businesses in the short-term with their recovery from the emergency closures.

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor hopes the new program will support small businesses in the city.

"As a city, it is important that we can continue to adapt and provide resources that will better serve our community and businesses,” said Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor. 

"The Inside Out program will allow local businesses the opportunity to operate under new guidelines while enhancing their ability to meet customer demand as well as stimulate the local economy."

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Kate Roff is an award-winning freelance writer and journalism educator, currently based out of Detroit. She is the managing editor of Metromode and Model D. Contact her at