Earlier today, I learned that Delaware District Councilman Joel Feroleto is pushing for a resolution that would enable local restaurateurs to utilize parking spaces in front of their buildings for additional outdoor patio seating. The idea came about due to the limiting seating circumstances presented by COVID-19 social distancing mandates, which will significantly cut into the profits of restaurant owners when they are permitted to reopen to the public.
After hearing about the potential initiative, I sent Feroleto an article that I had posted back in 2017 that pointed to Hamilton Ontario’s successful efforts in the same vein (lead image). Hamilton, along with numerous other cities all over the world have enacted similar measures, which allow restaurant owners to take full advantage of their commercial frontage if they so wish. By converting one or two parking spaces into dining patio spaces, businesses are able to expand their footprints. The increased capacity translates to increased sales.
Tommy Cowan of Forty Thieves on Elmwood Avenue weighed in on the concept by saying, “As a local restauranteur I am constantly thinking of what we can do in the future. We know that the State is going to cut our capacity anywhere from 25-50% for the foreseeable future. If the State only allows 25% capacity, it will be unsustainable and lead to more layoffs. Councilman Feroleto’s idea to have everyone work together, including the State Liquor Authority, and expand outdoor service will significantly help the industry.”
Other informed restaurateurs are also excited about the possibilities, citing that constructive and crafty measures along these lines need to be approved as soon as possible, without the City charging the businesses outrageous licensing in the process. In the past, restaurant owners have been seemingly punished for seeking patio permits, with excessive charges that don’t make the seasonal efforts worthwhile. We need to start encouraging restaurant owners to open lively (and legit) patios, not giving them a slap on the wrist when they try.
“We want something in place by the time restaurants are allowed to open, so they can hit the ground running,” added Feroleto. “We would also like to see restaurant and café owners extend their patio seating along the sidewalks, by working with neighboring businesses that would allow them to expand their footprints. We all need to be working together towards a common goal of supporting our local restaurants. Increased patio seating is one way that we can do this. These sidewalk patio expansions would only be conducted with the consent of neighboring businesses that might not be using their own sidewalks. We all know that people going out to eat and drink tend to shop and support other businesses on the street. Therefore, if the restaurants are truly back in business, everyone will benefit.”
While not much good has come from COVID-19, as far as the economy goes, this measure would be the slightest of silver linings. It took a totally deflated economy to trigger this brilliant idea that has proved to be successful in other cities. Not only does this enhance the dining capabilities of restaurants, it also adds street calming benefits while providing some critical urbanist action to the mix.