Outdoor dining in Plymouth in peril with new city tax fee increase under consideration

Dining outdoors in the city of Plymouth may soon be off the menu. The City Council may raise fees for outdoor dining --  by as much as 900 percent.

Some restaurant owners say, they just can't afford that.

"This is what people come down here for they come down to enjoy the sounds, sights and smells," said Tyler Garrett, Park Place Gasto Pub.

Most dining opportunities include popular outdoor patio seating in downtown Plymouth.

"The patio season is probably one of our top seasons," said Courtney Littles.

Littles is the general manager at Fiamma Grille, The Sardine Room, and Compari’s On The Park.

But several restaurants believe the future of patio dining there is in jeopardy. City officials are looking at a plan to increase outdoor dining fees from $1.50 per square foot of patio space to $15 per square foot.

"It seems like it’s a lot of money and if we are the only city that’s ever going to move it to that high - even Northville is sitting at a $1.50 right now - I’ve never heard of a city doing $15 a square foot," said Garrett.

City officials believe concerns over the patio fee increase proposal have spiraled out of control, and led to misinformation. One example they point to, is the wording on a recent flyer that indicates a proposed rate hike that’s a 900-percent increase.

"Which has never been voted on so it’s not true," said Paul Sincock, Plymouth city manager.

Officials say that patio dining is technically on public property and often consumes parking spaces and sidewalk areas. And when businesses are able to profit using that space, the appropriate usage rate must apply.

"Work with us," Sincock said. "I don’t think $15 is realistic (but) is $1.50 realistic? Probably not. We’ve gotten a lot of ideas that have come in over the past few days about different ways to be able to charge for the use of the public space and the commission is going to consider all of that."

These restaurant owners say they need your help to keep these rates affordable. You can make your voice heard by calling the City Commission (734-453-1234), writing an email to commission@plymouthmi.gov or attending an upcoming public meeting Aug. 7 at Caster Park.

If rates become too high some restaurants say they will have to reduce or do away with the patio dining areas.

"I think we will lose a lot of business and we will have to get rid of a lot of servers if that’s the case," Garrett said.

"Plymouth is known for its outdoor seating in the summer," Littles said. "You have music in the park you have all these festivals going on and losing the patio for that much of an increase will affect everyone."