BEMIDJI -- Bemidji city staff on Monday, March 22, were directed by elected officials to draft a resolution expanding options for outdoor dining this summer.

According to Bemidji City Clerk Michelle Miller, during a work session the city council asked staff members to prepare a set of rules similar to what Bemidji had last year when it came to outdoor dining rules. In June 2020, the city council authorized local restaurants and bars to serve customers in the public right-of-way.

Additionally, the council allowed those downtown establishments to serve customers alcohol in the right-of-way, and set up barriers to block off parking lots for seating. The move came after Gov. Tim Walz allowed restaurants and bars to reopen sit-down dining in outdoor spaces.

Earlier in the year, on March 17, Walz announced a temporary closure of restaurants and bars to dine-in services. The city's outdoor rules for restaurants and bars came to a close in mid-October.

Miller said the resolution won't be identical to what was authorized in 2020. For example, there likely won't be road closures. However, there will still be similarities, such as serving alcohol in the right-of-way.

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Monday's discussion also covered special event permitting in the summer season for the city. In 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the city did not grant special event permits.

According to city documents, some event organizers have opted to cancel their events, while others are planning to hold theirs with COVID-precautions. Additionally, there are some events that are still under consideration on whether they will happen.

Last year, some events did go forward. One of the major ones was the 2021 Water Carnival by the Bemidji Jaycees, which held its Red, White and Boom Fireworks display, as well as an "unparade," allowing Bemidji residents to drive through the Sanford Center parking lot and see stationed floats.

The 2020 Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival, meanwhile, was canceled.

Special events in Bemidji include one of the following criteria:

  • A temporary alcoholic beverage license is issued, or an on-sale alcoholic beverage license is expanded to dispense off the main premises.
  • A street, sidewalk or other public way of space is closed.
  • A city park or area has more than 300 attendees.
  • Amplified sound or sound devices are used with a gathering of 100 or more. Or, the event will adversely impact a considerable number of members of the public or city resources.

Miller said no action was taken on holding special events. Although, the council was asked to consider having no special events permitted until after July 1.