The current pandemic has necessitated the distancing of individuals and groups from others in order to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. That is especially true at businesses, which are relying on customers to stay afloat.
For foodservice establishments, this crisis has been especially difficult as their dine-in business has all but been eliminated in recent months. However, with cities and states allowing them to resume in-house dining, there will be a need for more space to allow for more customers while keeping proper distance between them.
Some US cities have found creative answers to this problem. In Berkeley, California, officials have introduced legislation to fully close many of the city’s streets, repurposing them as seating areas for the city’s restaurant scene.
According to Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguín, the plan was inspired by news coverage of the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, which announced in April that it would turn its plazas, streets and squares into “a vast open-air cafe” to so that bars and restaurants could serve patrons while maintaining social distance.
The city is now reaching out to the local business community to get input on which streets will close, keeping an eye on traffic flow and representation of areas across the city. The plan could also include the repurposing of additional public spaces such as private parking lots and plazas.
Berkeley officials say that they will only implement this plan once it is safe for the city and the region. The legislation be voted on by the city council on June 2, and if it passes like it’s expected to, the city will work on safe and effective protocols for establishing the plan.
Meanwhile, in Kansas City, Missouri, city officials are discussing a similar plan to help its bars and restaurants, which are currently only allowed to serve patrons at tables spaced ten feet apart. Mayor Quinton Lucas and members of the city council have introduced legislation allowing restaurants to apply for temporary permits to run street cafes or “parklets.”
The three proposed ordinances would allow restaurants to apply for permits to operate sidewalk or street cafes in parking spaces in the public right-of-way, eliminate required parking ratios so that adding tables in parking lots won’t throw restaurants off zoning requirements, allow restaurants to serve alcohol in their expanded dining area and extend the period of time where the city will relax its enforcement of liquor rules to, in essence, allow for to-go cocktails.
The permits would be allowed for seven months or until the end of the emergency declaration that has currently been extended until August 15. Every 90 days, restaurants would have to renew them, although the Alcohol Beverage Advisory Group, which makes recommendations to the city council, suggested that the 90-day renewal be eliminated and that the permits be good for seven months.