Iowa City restaurants want city to cut patio fees to help pandemic recovery

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) — The city of Iowa City has eliminated patio fees for restaurants for the past two years, but now that they’re back, some business owners would like to see them lowered.

Burger Haul, located on the pedestrian mall, opened at the start of the pandemic. Yolanda Robinson, the restaurant’s owners, said she loved making flame-grilled burgers but didn’t like paying thousands in patio fees while dealing with the residual effects of the pandemic.

“We are feeling the effects more than ever,” Robinson said. “We still have to deal with high delivery costs, people going out less and staffing.”

Robinson isn’t the only one paying so her customers can enjoy her burgers outside. More than 30 other restaurants and cafes pay the city to use its right-of-way.

“Smaller patios can cost $1,500 to $1,600, very large ones can cost $3,000 to $4,000,” said Joe Reilly, the “night mayor” of the Iowa City Downtown District organization. “It all depends on the type of terrace and the type of space you occupy.”

Reilly said the city asked his organization to identify ways to help businesses, and reducing those fees was one of the responses.

“Our city has waived that fee for the past two years, so there’s something we can work on,” Reilly said. “The city just needs to identify him.”

Robinson said she would continue to cook her burgers while the city decides whether that fee should be lowered.

“Restaurants have been so affected over the past two years,” Robinson said. “They need all the support they can get.”

Copyright 2022 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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