The Outdoor Experience in Downtown Kalamazoo

Photo By
Hannah Ziegeler

Let’s take it outside!

Downtown Kalamazoo is getting down with the new normal and adapting to accommodate new capacity regulations in restaurants and retail establishments. A new plan, dubbed “The Outdoor Experience,” is the product of a collaboration between the Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership and the City of Kalamazoo to open up public spaces for dining, retail, and services downtown. Sidewalks, on-street parking spaces, and some roads will be designated to authorize downtown businesses to expand their operations in the space until October 31, 2020.

As part of the plan, the Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership has been approved to close the Kalamazoo Mall on Fridays through the city’s existing special events permit process throughout the summer for outdoor dining, shopping, and services—creating an outdoor market zone. This will allow businesses to expand their square footage and serve a greater number of customers. On Bates Alley, businesses will be permitted to set up outdoor seating in addition to their existing decks. Organizers of the plan have intentionally limited the regulations in place for businesses in order to inspire creativity in the types of experiences that can be offered for customers.

The new plan comes after resounding feedback to the Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership about the hardships that restaurants and retailers are facing now with the new capacity limits. In addition, there has also been an outpouring of support from consumers who are eager to come out and support local businesses. Opening up outdoor public spaces will allow this gap to be filled and help consumers feel comfortable in a safe service environment—it’s a win-win. Businesses can read about how the full plan here can positively impact their business. As for our fellow consumers, we’ll see you downtown!

Are you a business interested in how you can expand your restaurant or retail space?

Details on process to use public space can be found here. Businesses interested in utilizing this space need to complete a brief Google form to help the Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership and City of Kalamazoo understand the space you would like to use and how you propose using it. Applications will be reviewed within two business days of receipt. There are additional processes through the Michigan Liquor Control Commission for restaurants and bars interested in adding new outdoor service areas or expanding existing outdoor service areas, this information can be found in the attached document. You are encouraged to reach out to the team at the Kalamzoo Downtown Partnership with questions.

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