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Is Fontana next for more outdoor dining?



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Fontana is the newest community looking to expand its outdoor dining ordinance.

Spadoni
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Spadoni (click for larger version)

McGreevy
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McGreevy (click for larger version)

WILSON
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Wilson (click for larger version)

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Kenny (click for larger version)
June 05, 2012 | 01:18 PM
FONTANA — In Lake Geneva, the city's sidewalk dining ordinance has been an undeniable hit with its business owners.

Now, in Fontana, the village is looking at easing its restrictions on outdoor dining and alcohol sales.

On Monday night, Trustee George Spadoni placed an item on the agenda to discuss the issue. He wants to bring it to the village's new business committee, but, prior to that, he wanted to see if the other board members favor a change.

To some degree, most of the board members were warm to the proposal.

"I would like to see your group make it work," Trustee Cynthia Wilson said. "I certainly have vacationed in plenty of towns with outdoor dining with alcohol, and I think it is lovely in the summer."

Spadoni said a change would likely benefit four restaurants: Chuck's Lakeshore Inn, Gordy's Boat House Restaurant, Park Place and Pie High Pizza.

The only restaurant owner that was at Monday night's meeting was Carol Whowell, who is an owner of Chuck's Lakeshore Inn.

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"Of course it would be good for Chuck's," Whowell said after the proposal was discussed.

She said that was the first time she heard of the proposal, and she is looking forward to hearing what the village's business committee develops.

Trustee Rick Pappas and Village President Arvid "Pete" Peterson weren't as quick to commit their support. Instead, they both stated they wanted to see the details of an ordinance before giving their endorsements.

In Fontana, outdoor dining isn't banned. However, restaurants can't serve alcohol within 20 feet of a public right-of-way, which would include the streets and, in some cases, parks.

Spadoni said he would like to see the business committee, which he chairs, weigh the pros and cons of outdoor dining and develop a proposal to bring to the village board.

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"We have to look at it from the standpoint of the business owners," Trustee Patrick Kenny said in support of the outdoor dining ordinance.

Spadoni said the village had concerns when Novak's Restaurant looked to introduce outdoor dining with alcohol service.

"The comment was that people are going to get drunk and run naked down Fontana Boulevard. That hasn't happened," Spadoni said.

Spadoni said problems weren't created with Novak's Restaurant, and he doesn't anticipate problems with an outdoor dining ordinance. However, he said if the village approves the ordinance this summer, it could do so on a "probationary" basis.

Trustee Thomas McGreevy said Lake Geneva's sidewalk dining ordinance has improved businesses in the nearby city.

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"You look at Speedo's, it has changed his whole world," McGreevy said.

McGreevy added that the village isn't talking about adding beer gardens, but instead would allow people to have a cheeseburger with a beer.

Wilson said there are additional ways to ensure customers aren't just overindulging in alcohol near village streets.

"Some restaurants allow alcohol only if you are given a meal. That makes it more dignified," Wilson said. She said that would probably circumvent rowdy behavior.

In May, the Regional News spoke to several business owners in Lake Geneva who had taken advantage of the sidewalk dining ordinance. Those business owners reported positive experiences.

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"I think most people are taking advantage of it," Carrie Cummings, the general manager of Sopra, 724 W. Main St., said. "They are putting out nice furniture, it is good for the restaurant and it is good for the town."

Spyro "Speedo" Condos, owner of the Harborside Cafe, 100 Broad St., reported his customers told him they would be more likely to return to Lake Geneva because of the change.

"I think it is giving the town a new look," he said. "It is a little bit of a European flair."

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