Most bars and restaurants in downtown Bangor will start paying higher fees this year to use parking spots and sidewalk space for outdoor seating. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Most bars and restaurants in downtown Bangor will start paying higher fees this year to use parking spots and sidewalk space for outdoor seating.

The Bangor City Council voted 6-0 Monday night to set a flat rate of $2.78 per square foot for each Downtown District business that uses outdoor public space.

The flat rate replaces an arrangement under which restaurants and bars paid disparate amounts for the outdoor seating they used.

Outdoor seating in downtown Bangor grew in popularity during the first summer of the COVID-19 pandemic, when diners sought socially distanced, outdoor alternatives to indoor dining.  The city that summer shut down a portion of Broad Street to vehicle traffic so restaurants could use it for outdoor seating, and the city allowed restaurants to use “parklets,” so they could expand seating into on-street parking spots.

Businesses had previously been required to pay fees of $50 to $500 depending on factors including whether they sold alcohol and the number of outdoor seats they had. That resulted in restaurants paying fees that ranged from 32 cents to $1.25 per square foot.

The new rate makes $2.78 per square foot the standard rate for all businesses that use public sidewalks and parking spaces to serve customers. It will take effect in stages over the next three years, with businesses paying one-third of the new rate this year, two-thirds in 2023 and the full fee in 2024.

Most businesses will end up paying higher rates this year, and all will pay higher fees by the time the new rate is phased in.

Under the new rate structure, businesses would also be charged $500 per parking space and be allowed to use up to two street parking spaces for outdoor dining between May 1 and November 1. The City Council voted to halve those fees last year to allow businesses a financial cushion during the pandemic.

Nok-Noi Ricker, who owns 2 Feet Brewing on Columbia Street, said that at $2.78 per square foot, her fees will quadruple by 2024. The brewery’s full fee last year should have been $250 under an agreement that charged them 71 cents per square foot for 350 feet, according to city documents, but they only paid half of that in 2021 because of the reduced parklet rate.

The new rate of $2.78 means that 2 Feet would pay almost $1,000 for its outdoor seating area when the full fee took effect, Ricker said. The bar would pay $324 this year, $648 in 2023 and $973 in 2024.

“Quadrupling the price, for 18 weeks, is tough,” Ricker said.

Councilor Gretchen Schaefer said that the new fee schedule would be more equitable as downtown retail space is at a premium. Businesses that claim more outdoor space would pay higher sums, while those with fewer outdoor seats would pay less, she said.

Businesses could also opt to reduce the amount of public space they use to lower the amount of money they paid to the city, Schaefer said.

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to