Part of Governor Northam’s enactment of Phase 1 of Virginia’s reopening plan is the proposal to allow dining establishments to reopen, however only with outdoor seating at a reduced capacity.
Many of the restaurant owners I have talked to have stated that while this appears to be reasonable and an incremental approach to getting back on track, the simple fact is without a certain threshold of customers, reopening is simply not feasible to cover the overhead of their workers for a given day’s work.
To alleviate this, many cities across the globe have begun to implement strategically opening street space, formerly exclusively reserved for automobile traffic, to pedestrians and also for businesses to use for outdoor seating. For example, Tampa Florida recently closed street traffic in certain business districts to enable their businesses to reach minimum capacities so that they may continue to survive.
I would propose several streets listed below could be closed entirely to automotive traffic so that restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries could use outdoor seating to extend to the centerline of the street. Other areas, they could be allowed to use at least the sidewalk and a portion of the parking lanes outside of the business.
Automobile traffic in the city is far below normal levels, and closing a number streets to cars would have little to no effect on overall congestion. Keeping cross streets open, such as Charlottesville does with it’s downtown Mall, would allow emergency service to have access if it was necessary.
At this point in our reopening it is imperative that we look at creative and progressive solutions that will enable our world class dining community to survive and thrive. If we do nothing and continue to operate as if this was a “normal” situation, many small business owners and the hard-working people who depend on those jobs will simply not survive this crisis.
Please consider working on creative solutions rather than simply continuing the status quo; our city depends on it.
List of potential streets to be entirely closed:
Cary Street from Nansemond to Arthur Ashe
Grace Street from Harrison to 5th Street
Partial closures of Broad Street from Lombardy to 5th Street
Main Street from the Market to 23rd Street
Grove Avenue from Maple Avenue to Westview Avenue
Brookland Park Avenue
25th Street – Church Hill
Hull Street – Manchester
Other targeted areas:
Near West End