Displaying items by tag: outdoor dining

Thursday, 09 July 2020 13:04

Drivers & Diners Merge

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Henry Street welcomed outdoor tables filled with customers this past weekend as local eateries in Saratoga have expanded their outdoor dining to the streets.

Participating restaurants such as Scallions, Henry Street Taproom, Flatbread Social, Paint and Sip and other businesses can now offer outdoor seating on the street with concrete safety barriers between customers and traffic. The concrete blocks extend down Henry Street and Short Alley between Lake Avenue and Caroline Street. Eateries saw full capacity after beginning the street dining this past Friday.

“It was really exciting to see so many people enjoying it,” said Erin Maciel, Complete Streets Advisory Board committee member. “This is the step we need to take as a city. I think by working with the business association, we have really seen how streets can be flexible. That’s really what we are promoting with Complete Streets. Streets are public space and this is a great example of how streets can keep us safe as a community, allow for social distancing and allow for people to be outdoors and support businesses.”

The Complete Streets Advisory Board was established via the Complete Streets Policy as adopted by City Council on May 1, 2012. 

“Having that outdoor space is pivotal. People do feel safer outdoors and that’s something that we have to acknowledge and support. We want them to come out and feel safe downtown. The outdoor step is essential and necessary to save our local economy,” said Catherine Hover, owner of Paint and Sip.

Street dining helps to increase revenue for participating businesses and allows for COVID-19 safe dining. To help this initiative, Maciel said she’s happy the city passed a temporary outdoor seating that allows businesses to expand to city property, which streets are included in.

“With the ordinance that is out there right now, each business needs to provide insurance that allows them to go out onto sidewalks and into the street. That’s our next step throughout our community…to expand outdoor dining.”

The Saratoga City Council approved the permit system late June, which allows city restaurants to expand their outdoor seating to sidewalks and other public locations. The permits have no cost.

Henry Street isn’t the only roadway to see outdoor dining. Maciel said she has seen businesses on other streets joining together to take over parking lanes or shift around the cross section of the roadway to accommodate seating in the street. Hover, also owner of Palette Café, expanded her outdoor seating to the sidewalks on Broadway.

“Right now, I think we are seeing a silver lining and I think that’s something we need to talk about…that we can accommodate and support local businesses with new ideas and thinking creatively,” Maciel said. “We on the Complete Streets Board and design professionals here in the city just want to support businesses to keep our city what it is and make sure everyone can weather this storm.”

Maciel is also a Senior Landscape Architect at CLA SITE Landscape Architecture, Engineering & Planning, P.C, which is located at 58 Church St in Saratoga Springs.

Hover added: “We have to keep moving forward and we have to have hope. We have to evolve and we have to adapt. We need people to be vocal and speak up. There is real change coming and it’s exciting.” 

Dining on the road will continue through Labor Day, at which point the Complete Streets Advisory Board and city officials will re-evaluate to determine if the ordinance and permits should be extended. 

 “It really depends on COVID and how safe we can be indoors,” Maciel said. “We have a climate here that does not allow us to be outdoors year-round. Talking with everyone, why can’t we have heaters out there? You look at a lot of cities around the globe and I think there are ways to make accommodations for folks to enjoy it longer. Once we go into winter and if we are not able to be indoors safely, that’s going to be a huge hit for our small businesses. We really need to expand it as far as it can.”

Published in News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Summertime in Saratoga may feature new dimensions in the outdoor dining experience. Literally. 

In an effort to help downtown businesses increase customer capacity while remaining compliant to COVID-19 restrictions, the city is exploring a variety of possibilities that would allow its merchants to expand their businesses across city sidewalks. 

The City Council is expected to address the matter at its Tuesday, June 16 meeting - immediately preceded by a public hearing at 6:55 p.m.   

A working draft of a proposal that will be presented to the council is being crafted this week. 

“Right now, the draft is basically allowing businesses to use the sidewalk as long as it’s ADA compliant – which is 48 inches for people to walk back and forth,” Accounts Commissioner John Franck said on June 9, one week prior to the meeting. Specifically, the measure would allow restaurants and other establishments to expand their outdoor spaces onto sidewalks, as long as 48 inches of pedestrian walkway is maintained, as per Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. 

“We want to see how that affects things. Is that going to move the needle for the restaurants one way or another? Do we need to do more?” said Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton. 

With summer approaching and some, but not all, state mandated restrictions related to COVID-19 being lifted, the idea of municipalities and businesses seeking creative ways to reopen the economy is a fluid one. Between this week and next week those creative options may change. Another idea being floated involves eliminating one lane of parking on city side streets to expand even greater the usable spaces for businesses.      

“A second option would be to look at the side streets, take one lane of parking away from the side streets and put up Jersey barriers between the parking lane and the driving lane,” Commissioner Dalton explained. That move would allow the current parking lane to become a barriered pedestrian walkway, and free existing sidewalks in their entirety for vendors and restaurants to use. Jersey barriers are concrete partitions and are so-named because of their notable use as median barriers in the late 1940s in New Jersey. 

Commissioner Franck has been leading the charge for the second option. “I’m hoping and really pushing for the change to also have the ability to add some of the street space – not close streets down – but to put barriers down that would allow more area in front of businesses – especially restaurants and bars – to give you more space for walking area and also in front of your restaurant, bar, or retail,” Franck said.   

“It’s evolving, and I don’t know if the votes are there for it, but why not just put a Jersey barrier out there along one side of the street. This isn’t for the next 20 years; later we could go back to business as usual, but the summer’s here – let’s get this done,” he said.

It is not clear whether that second measure may also be part of the June 16 meeting, but a majority of Council members – at least three of five member votes – are required to approve the proposal for it to take effect.   

That installation of barriers would be for a temporary period – perhaps only through the summer – but they would stay in place throughout the period of implementation. In other words, they wouldn’t be removed and re-inserted on a daily basis, or in accordance with business hours. And while they would only be placed on certain blocks in the downtown business core – and not on Broadway – their implementation could extend to both the east and west side of the city. 

As to which side streets the barriers would specifically be installed needs to be figured out. “It’s not like we’re going to impose it on everyone. The code would be re-written such that if the need is there, it’s something we can do.  We want to take logical steps,” Dalton said.

The Public Hearing will begin at 6:55 p.m. Two agenda items later into the meeting address the matter. The chapter amendment may be viewed HERE and a draft of the licensing process may be viewed HERE.

Published in News

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