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BLOOMINGTON - An effort that could provide westbound flights out of Central Illinois Regional Airport received a boost from the Bloomington City Council.

Also, tables and umbrellas outside downtown restaurants could be a common sight this summer, now that the city's liquor codes allows for sidewalk cafes.

The council approved adding $200,000 to a local effort pursing flights to a hub airport in the western part of the country, such as Denver or Phoenix.

Airport Director Carl Olsen said the airport needs to raise $1 million in order to use an $850,000 grant received from the Small Community Airport Service Development Pilot Program.

"If we return the money, it will be harder to get any more money from the program," Olsen told the council at its meeting Monday. "Plus another airport in the area could receive the grant and begin work on a westbound route."

The Normal City Council already has added $200,000 to the effort.

Olsen said the airport is halfway to the goal with Bloomington's contribution. The airport also is looking to partner with major employers in the community to raise the money.

The airport board will contribute the difference that remains after the fund-raising effort, Olsen said.

In other action Monday, the council approved adding an O class license to its liquor code. The additional license will allow businesses to serve alcohol in public areas in a sidewalk cafe. In the 7-1 vote, Alderman Kevin Huette dissented.

Only businesses in downtown Bloomington that hold a restaurant liquor license can qualify for the O license.

The city's engineering department must approve a restaurant's plans to put tables and chairs on the sidewalk outside of the building. That will ensure the sidewalk is large enough to accommodate the café and still allow for pedestrian traffic.

Assistant city attorney Hannah Eisner said the ordinance is targeted for the restaurants and not the taverns in downtown.

In an unrelated item, the council delayed action on an ordinance that would restructure the fire department ranks. It likely will be reviewed at the council's next meeting Feb. 27.


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