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Southport businesses upset about sidewalk crackdown

READ MORE: Southport businesses upset about sidewalk crackdown
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SOUTHPORT, NC (WWAY) -- There's growing concern among Southport business owners. A city ordinance could make sidewalk seating and sidewalk dining a thing of the past, and some business owners aren't happy about that.

Whether it's potted plants, benches or merchandise, Southport business owners say these things add charm to the small city and help promote their businesses.

"We sometimes put a table out with a sale item or something," said Hilary Meehan at Lantana's Gallery. "People really pay attention to that and stop and draws them in to our store."

But city code enforcement is cracking down on an ordinance that prohibits pretty much anything on the designated city-owned sidewalk. That includes, planters, signs, merchandise, benches and tables. Without these things, some feel it could hurt profits, like at The Pharmacy restaurant, where two tables can seat four diners.

"Every person counts, and that's what's important to us," owner and chef Kelli Menna said.

This all came to a head months ago when concerns were raised about A-frame signs obstructing the sidewalk.

"I started out just dealing with signs, and then the city manager felt like he might kill two birds with one stone, and he was enforcing the other ordinance and we got an outcry," Southport Alderman Ken Karn said.

In a letter dated June 16, Southport business owners were made aware of restrictions on both the A-frame signs and other items on the sidewalk. Even though the ordinance dates back to the 1970s, Karn says it's not set in stone.

"What we'd like to do is do something fair to the merchants but still maintains the safety concerns that the city has," he said. A compromise restaurant owner Manna is banking on.

"They're just trying to find what are the guidelines, but it will affect me," Manna said, "and it will effect a lot of other people, so we're all just kinda waiting to see."

Karn says much of what's on the sidewalk helps beautify the city. He's working on rewriting the ordinance to present at the next Board of Aldermen meeting at the end of the month.

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I have lived in the

I have lived in the Southport area for 33 years. It doesn't take much to "upset" the downtown merchants. I don't really see any problem with benches next to stores or a small merchandise display. Dining on the sidewalk is different. Can't go for that. The trees that I suppose belong to the city are more of a nuisance than the rest of the stuff mentioned. If the benches and other items go, the trees should as well.