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Take it outside: Galena restaurants, bars take their business outdoors

Open: City denies request for open alcohol downtown


GALENA–In just a matter of days, the majority of Galena’s Main Street transformed into an outdoor mall after the Galena City Council, on Tuesday, May 26, unanimously approved a proposal for outdoor eating and drinking at bars and restaurants.

The measure was in response to the state moving on May 29 from Phase 2 to Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan.  Non-essential retail was allowed to open with capacity limits and bars and restaurants are allowed to offer outdoor seating for food and beverage service with tables six feet apart and not on the sidewalk, face coverings and distancing measures for staff in place. Reduced capacity indoor seating will not be allowed until Phase 4.

A large section of Main Street will be closed to vehicle traffic through at least June 26. Public restroom facilities have reopened as well.

The council approved the two-page proposal, aware that tweaks would likely need to be made to make sure the goals were met of creating space in the downtown for greater physical distancing and safety for residents and visitors, providing space for bars and restaurants to offer outdoor sit down service to patrons and restarting the downtown economy by allowing safe access to those businesses permitted to reopen.

As part of the plan, Main Street will be closed to  vehicle traffic from Green Street to Meeker Street. Hill Street and Franklin Street remain through streets and open to traffic. Deliveries will be made from temporary delivery parking at Main at Green Street, Washington, Hill and Perry streets, and there are parking zones for persons with disabilities on Commerce Street near the intersections with Perry, Hill and Washington streets. Truck route traffic will be rerouted from Main to Bench streets between Meeker and Franklin. Parking will be temporarily removed in that area to facilitate the route.

Council member Chris Allendorf said he’s heard from numerous establishments that are struggling due to the restrictions. He thought closing the street was the right thing to do to help restaurants and bars by hopefully bringing more people into town.

Council member Jerry Kieffer agreed.

“They really need our help,” Kieffer said.

Council member Marc McCoy said he was impressed with the various entities that worked together to come up with the proposal including city staff, the Galena Downtown Business Association and the Galena Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We’ve gotta do what we can do,” said council member Robert Hahn.


No to open containers

A proposal by Catherine Kouzmanoff of The Grape Escape to allow open containers of alcohol in the downtown area did not gain traction from the council.

The council voted 5-1 to deny the request. Allendorf was the lone council member who expressed support. Council members Hahn, McCoy, Kieffer, Jerry Westemeier and Pam Bernstein voted to deny.

“Due to COVID guidelines and safety restrictions, it has become critical to increase sales in more creative ways,” Kouzmanoff wrote in a letter to the council. “It is apparent that restaurants and bars will have limited capacity for many months to come if not years, and any way we can increase the economic viability of downtown Galena should be of urgent consideration. With that in mind, we need to be thinking of immediate solutions that are safe to implement and able to halt immediately.”

Other than Allendorf, council members believed that the closed off of Main Street to allow bars and restaurants to use the street for seating was enough.

Allendorf, however, pointed out there are more bars than restaurants in the downtown area and they are an important part of the local economy. He didn’t see any safety concerns beyond those of a normal weekend and asked at the end of the meeting that the item come before the council again for reconsideration.

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“We’ve got a chance to make Galena unique for the next few months,” he said.


Other business

In other business, the council:

•approved a notice of award of contract for the east side utility improvement project to Louie’s Trenching Service for $1,384,717.

•endorsed a letter from the Galena Area Chamber of Commerce to Gov. J.B. Pritzker regarding possible modifications to the Restore Illinois plan.

The letter asks the governor to consider using the 11 EMS districts as the regions for reopening instead of the current plans which groups small cities with larger cities and change the 28-day timeline for stability to 14 days.

•approved a contract with Karen White for janitorial services at the Galena Police Department. Monthly cost will be $550. 

•approved the application to Landmarks Illinois for a Driehaus Award for the restoration of Grant Park.

•approved the vacation of .11 acres of the Bridge Street right of way adjacent to 708 Bostwick St. to the James and Linda Sowle Estate at a cost of $5,270.

•approved a $25,785 contract with Garage Force for floor coating at the public works building.

•approved a contract with Strand Associates to prepare a phosphorus optimization plan and feasibility study for the wastewater treatment plant. The cost of the study is not to exceed $29,500.

Meeting as the liquor commission:

•approved a Class A corporation liquor license for Galena Cellars, Inc., 111 N. Main St.

•approved a corporation manager liquor license for Galena Cellars, Inc., Angela Bruun, 111 N. Main St.

•approved the rezoning of 1249 N. Franklin St. from limited agriculture to general commercial.

•met in closed session for personnel, collective bargaining and review of closed session minutes. No action resulted.