Pretoria Hotel to get seating on footpath after Mid Murray Council decision

What is more important: a vibrant, bustling main street, or pedestrians' right of way?

Mid Murray councillors pondered that question at their meeting on Tuesday after an application by the Pretoria Hotel to fix tables and chairs to the footpath on Randell Street.

The issue with the application was that it would reduce the available footpath to a width of 1.6 metres, narrow enough that mobility scooter or wheelchair users could have trouble getting past if a crowd formed.

Pedestrians would also be pushed towards the road side of the footpath, which could cause problems for sight-impaired people; and the seating would not be able to be packed away at night.

All three points ran against council policy, but as councillors heard, the policy had not been consistently applied in the past.

The Mannum Hotel was forced to pay thousands of dollars to fill in car parks for its own al fresco dining area several years ago, and JJJ's Diner and Izzy's Ice Creamery and Coffee Bar also agreed to comply with the rules.

But the Riverside Pharmacy and Christian bookshop had been given special permission to put displays on the footpath, up against buildings.

Hurley Hotel Group general manager Sam McInnes, who attended the council meeting, said fixing the two tables in place would ensure groups of people could not move them and block the footpath.

"It's not about income; it's about making our basic street frontage more appealing," he said.

"There are a lot of day trippers in Randell Street on the weekend.

"That's what we're trying to embrace, not to create a spot to drink beers all day."

Cr Brian Taylor took issue with the application, saying there were plenty of other places for patrons to sit; and Cr Brenton Schmitt argued that the council seemed to have made up the rules as it went along.

But Cr Kelly Kuhn said people congregating on the footpath would be a "wonderful problem", and Cr Mardi Jennings suggested regulations should not stand in the way of a good idea.

"Surely we want Mannum to be open, we want custom, we want people to come into your enterprise," Cr Jennings said.

"Surely we can find a way without worrying about whether it's 15 centimetres this way or that way.

"Maybe it's time to review the policy."

Cr Peter Raison said it was just unfortunate that the footpath was so skinny.

Councillors ultimately voted to allow the Pretoria to install the tables, so long as they could be removed when the hotel was closed.