Street Dining Takes Off

Restaurants are working with cities to create social distanced dining options outside.

May 28, 2020

WARRENTON, Va.—As Virginia opened part of the state last weekend, restaurants in Warrenton, Va. worked with local officials to expand outdoor seating onto the street, USA Today reports. “It was a crazy busy weekend,” said Denim & Pearl owner Jenn Robinson, which set up tables on the sidewalk and street. “Just on Saturday, we did in sales what we had done the entire previous week just with curbside and delivery.”

With the weather warming up and more states re-opening, the town of Warrenton follows cities like Las Vegas; Tampa, Fla.; and Portland, Maine, which are shutting down streets for al fresco dining to recreate the outdoors café culture of Rome and Paris. “As we transition to reopening Las Vegas, we want to ensure we are doing everything we can to assist our small businesses,” said Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman. “Sidewalk dining is a safe and easy way we can help.”

Brookhaven, Georgia, started handing out temporary, 90-day outdoor dining permits in April. “With restaurants reopening, we wanted to allow them a bigger footprint so they could serve more people but also serve them safer,” said Mayor John Ernst Jr. Both residents and restaurants have enjoyed the socially distanced dining.

In other cities, with the approval of local governments, restaurants have taken over sidewalks, parking spaces, parking lots and streets. Cities have waived fees and issued permits quickly to assist restaurants in serving customers safely. “It’s only new in the sense of doing it to allow restaurants, cafes and other businesses to reopen safely with maximum physical distancing,” said Jesse Arreguín, mayor of Berkeley, California, noting that the city has closed the streets for farmers markets and festivals in the past.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages socially distanced dining in its new coronavirus guidelines. “Dining outdoors, with tables separated and staff wearing masks, will have a lower risk than being confined indoors,” said infectious disease expert Barry Bloom.

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