BRISTOL – Back in May, local restaurants got a break from the covid-19 shutdown when they were allowed to set up temporary facilities for outdoor dining. But now that cold weather is approaching, city officials are looking for ways to work with those restaurants as they cope with the prospect of being limited to socially distanced indoor seating.
In May Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order allowing municipalities to expedite to their zoning rules to allow for outdoor dining. In August another gubernatorial executive order allowed for expanded outdoor dining through Nov. 12.
Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said she has been talking with the Planning and Zoning commissions about how to expedite a process to make some of these outside dining situations permanent.
Some restaurants were able to set up outside dining quickly, but “some are going to be easy and some of them might take a few more different twists from a site plan perspective, so we’re already starting to work on that,” she said.
“We are advising some of them to inquire as to what needs to happen over the winter to create a permanent outside seating scenario for them so that they will be ready for the spring,” Zoppo-Sassu said. “This varies per restaurant. For example, Pure Foods would need to go to the Board of Public Works since they are in the city’s right of way (road). Others, like Bristol Plaza, may need to modify the existing site plans that they have on file with Planning and/or Zoning so that it all conforms once the governor’s executive orders expire.”
At the City’s Council’s September meeting, Councilman David Preleski said the city had been reaching out to local small business owners in general to see what could be done to make their plight a little bit easier during the pandemic shutdown.
“To shop locally is so important,” he said. “Small business contributes in such a consistent, meaningful way to our community, for youth activities, for nonprofits.”
That’s especially true when it comes to restaurants, he said. “Right now for the summer season restaurants have seating inside and out, so that enables them to fill up their seat count on a daily basis. But as the season gets colder they will be limited more toward inside seating, which will affect them in a significant way.”
Preleski encouraged people to continue to patronize local restaurants through takeout service and curbside pickup.
Zoppo-Sassu agreed. “We want the same restaurants that we had before the pandemic to be here when the pandemic is over, and it’s really all on us to make sure that that happens,” she said.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or email@example.com.