The Brentwood City Council voted on Tuesday to approve another $75k for its grant program for Outdoor Dining Furniture for Fiscal Year 2020-21.
According to the city, back in Sept. 24, 2019, they approved $20k for interested businesses with the purchases of furniture, umbrellas and other approved outdoor merchandise. By July 14, 2020, the council approved $75k for the expansion of the Outdoor Dining Furniture Grant Program for a citywide economic development program.
The move for grant funding comes as businesses are dealing with the limitations of business operations due to COVID-19 pandemic. To date, the city has handed out grants to 15 local businesses for a total of $75k.
The funds will be used citywide and staff anticipates that participating restaurants will focus city grant funds on mitigating the impacts of adverse winter weather with tents, patio covers and heaters. Grants will be provided based on a first come, first serve basis.
Staff has created a waitlist, currently at 2, for additional interested businesses not funded with the first round of grant funding. Restaurants that have already received an Outdoor Dining Furniture Grant are excluded from receiving additional grant funds under this program.
The city says this action will contribute to stabilizing and encouraging the vibrancy of the restaurant community within Brentwood. The costs associated with the Outdoor Dining Furniture Grant Program, if approved, will be funded by the Economic Development Incentive through the FY 2020/21 –2021/22Strategic Plan, Focus Area 3, Economic Development Strategic Initiative Goal 3, Facilitate development and encourage investment budget.
On Tuesday, Vice Mayor Joel Bryant asked staff about if the city of Brentwood was streamlining the permit process to allow businesses to implement these changes with the grant awards. Staff said they had worked out a streamlined process and prepared ahead of the grants for that to occur.
Councilperson Karen Rarey asked staff how long the wait list was. Joshua Ewen, Senior Analyst, said there was currently 2 on the wait list.
Rarey then asked what the cost of the waiving of the permit process would be in which staff replied it was all “subjective on what the business wants to do” such as tables to a permanent structure with a design review.
Councilmember Johnny Rodriquez urged the council to consider if there is any rollover funds if not enough businesses apply, businesses who have previously applied could possibly be eligible for a second round of funding to prepare for winter. The council could take that up at a future meeting.
Councilperson Claudette Staton asked if this grant was “really only for restaurants”?
Ewen replied that the grant was geared towards restaurants but that the city has been flexible for outdoor operations as long as its safe while providing feedback for non-restaurant small business.
Mayor Bob Taylor reminded the council that they are also dealing with State and County Health requirements which requires open air tents/canopy. Staff confirmed this is a challenge in the winter.
“I am talking to quite a few restaurants and they are trying to figure out how in the world to handle the weather,” stated Taylor who explained they went out to dinner the other night and the temperature dropped for the first time and they had no business. “here we go if it gets windy, rainy, cold, outdoor dining is going to go down the tubes really fast. We just need to make sure where the health department standards are.”
During council discussion, Bryant said this was something for Brentwood to help as they can and was interested in councilmember Rodriquez idea that if they do not get a big response in new users of the grant, they open it up to businesses who had previously been awarded the first round of grants.
Rarey called it a great program that was needed and with 250-businesses in Brentwood, she urged staff to reach out to new business but would be open to opening it back up to those businesses who already received a grant.
Staton called this a good program, but urged staff to consider in the future to help other types of businesses outside of restaurants.
The Council voted 5-0 to approve the grant program. The funding for this initiative is budgeted from the Capital Infrastructure Fund.