The owners of the Thomas Meagher Bar in downtown Missoula received approval Wednesday from the City Council's Public Works Committee to expand its outdoor cafe on Pine Street.

Granted on a three-year trial basis, the permit includes several conditions and will serve as a pilot project for both restaurateurs and the city as they look to add vibrancy to the downtown district's outdoor atmosphere.

“I think this is a great plan,” said Ward 3 council member Gwen Jones.

The owners of the Irish-themed pub first approached the committee last year with a request to construct a larger outdoor cafe. The initial concept would have permanently eliminated six parking spots – an issue that concerned the Missoula Parking Commission.

The committee tabled the request until last week, when the pub owners returned with a new request to install a temporary patio. The revised concept would eliminate two parking spaces on a temporary basis.

It also keeps the sidewalk open for pedestrian use.

“We decided to put the through-sidewalk next to the building and all the tables six feet away from the building out on the platform,” said Doug Harby with the city's Development Services. “We've adjusted the platform to remove only two parking spaces. The remainder of the two spaces would be taken up with temporary bike racks.”

The permit, now pending approval of the full City Council, allows the outdoor cafe to operate from the start of April through the end of the September. The outdoor patio will accommodate roughly six tables and adhere to Montana Department of Revenue standards pertaining to alcohol service.

The city’s Greater Downtown Master Plan, adopted in 2009, looks to create a “vibrant street for pedestrians.” Outdoor cafes have been discussed as a means to bring vibrancy to the city's core.

While other restaurants have outdoor seating on the sidewalk, the Meagher Bar will be the first to receive a right-of-way encroachment to occupy parking spaces. It has reached an agreement with the Missoula Parking Commission to reimburse the agency for lost revenue.

“If it turns out there's an issue with movement across the sidewalk, we could either revoke the permit or ask for additional considerations,” said Ward 4 council member John DiBari.