Bemidji City Council approves two RLF requests, outdoor dining amendment discussions continue

The Bemidji City Council unanimously approved two revolving loan fund requests during their meeting Monday. The two requests plan on revitalizing areas near or in Bemidji’s rail corridor.

Minnesota Nice Cafe requested a $150,000 loan to expand their facility and catering services.

The project will include razing a nearby rental unit, but the project represents about $1.5 million in new construction.

The city typically does not issue revolving loans to restaurants, but City Manager Nate Mathews says the downtown and rail corridor neighborhoods are “priority areas.”

The Hair Affair’s $62,000 request was also approved. The owners there purchased the former TJuans building and plan to transform the space into a full-service salon.

The TJuans building on 4th St. and Park Ave. NW has been vacant for several years.

The council also approved a letter of support for Northern Township to request state bonding dollars.

This bonding request would allow the city to slightly move away from its traditional annexation process to extend city sewer and water services, and instead have Northern Township foot the bill to address Ruttger’s Birchmont Lodge’s failing septic issues.

In other business, the council held the first readings of two ordinances, one on solid waste and another on adjusting rental license language and fees.

Finally, the council held more public hearings on the city’s proposed outdoor dining ordinance amendments.

Changes to the presented ordinance amendments include fees per parking space a restaurant can take in front of its building, a max of three on a graduated scale.

One parking space for a street cafe would be $500, the second space is $600, and the third would be $700, and a base fee of $100 for a sidewalk cafe.

Councilmember Emelie Rivera of Ward 4 said she could not support these amendments without the engineer-approved barricades.

Mayor Jorge Prince contended that in business, there is always an element of risk .

The council moved these ordinance amendments with some changes, slated for a final vote after a final reading on Feb. 22.

If the council makes any further changes to the amendments, they would need to be passed with unanimous approval.

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