City experimenting with expanded sidewalk seating to comply with Northam’s guidelines
The City has closed on-street parking spaces in front of five downtown restaurants to allow expanded sidewalk seating areas. The closed parking spaces have become the pedestrian walkways for those areas on Caroline and William streets, while the sidewalk has been used entirely for outdoor seating in front of the participating restaurants.
Many communities around Virginia, the U.S. and the world are experimenting with similar measures to close certain areas to vehicles to allow for expanded outdoor restaurant seating.
Unlike many types of businesses, restaurants have not been allowed to open the inside of their businesses for dine-in customers under Virginia’s Phase One restrictions, making the outdoor spaces the only option for dine-in service (many are also offering takeout and delivery). Restaurants are a critical part of the City’s tax base, and the City wants to see them survive while attempting to be fair to surrounding businesses and keeping everyone safe. The Virginia ABC has allowed restaurants to expand their outdoor seating areas.
The pilot program has involved expanded sidewalk seating areas at Vivify, Fahrenheit 132, Castiglia’s, La Petite Auberge and Capital Ale House — all of which contacted the City to request the accommodations. City staff met with the business’ neighbors before putting in the temporary parking closures.
The City will monitor the success of the pilot program, which is anticipated to be short-term in nature until restaurants are given more flexibility to welcome diners indoors. Ample free off-street parking is available throughout the downtown.