COLUMBIA - COVID restrictions have put stress on Columbia restaurants over the past year. Last Monday, city council voted to allow downtown businesses to utilize metered parking spaces for additional outdoor dining. Now, a specific group of local restaurants are looking to see if the city can help cover certain license fees.

According to Matt Jenne, co-owner of Addison's, the president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Matt McCormick, has taken the lead on the project. Jenne said Addison's along with other local restaurants and the chamber are rallying behind the cause.

The proposal asks the city to help cover fees that come from business licenses, liquor licenses and food inspection.

Jenne said his business struggled after the city asked restaurants to operate at lower capacity levels.

"We aren't making as much money every month because we aren't seeing our full, usual customer base," Jenne said.

Jenne said with licenses being covered by the city, he can hire more staff.

"The licenses are a couple hundreds of dollars all together and if I could use that money and put it back into our staffing, that would be great," Jenne said.

Addison's isn't the only one feeling the pressure of limited staff. Other downtown Columbia restaurants said it has been difficult to keep a full staff.

Jenne said the restaurants and chamber of commerce have been speaking to the city for several months about this proposal. He said city council passing the city ordinance allowing for outdoor dining in parking meters was a good sign for him and his team.

"The city is getting more creative with how restaurants do business because they know we need it," Jenne said. "I hope they see this idea as another way to upkeep Columbia's restaurant industry."

There have been no reports on when the city council could hear the proposal at a future meeting.

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