The Town of Putnam is forming a committee to explore making temporary outdoor dining on Main Street permanent.
Town leaders closed off a portion of the street two months ago, impacting 12 parking spots, to make outdoor dining available for The Courthouse Bar and Grille and The Stomping Ground. Both restaurants have no outdoor dining. They had no other way to accommodate sit-down guests in May when the first phase of reopening allowed for outdoor dining.
"It has absolutely worked. Everybody loves it," said Mayor of Putnam, Norman 'Barney' Seney. "I have heard nothing but positive responses."
Sheila and James Frost, Co-Owners of The Courthouse, said that being able to offer an outdoor dining area to guests has had a positive impact on business.
"If we hadn't we would just be barely scraping by," said Sheila Frost.
"The first day that we opened the outdoor dining we went right back to normal or better than normal business, weather dependent of course," added James Frost.
Owner of The Stomping Ground, Terry Paquette, shared a similar sentiment.
"Outdoor dining saved us," said Paquette.
According to Seney, the committee will be comprised of seven town officials including the fire marshal and a member of the zoning commission, among others. He said that the goal is to come up with regulations so that the town can make the outdoor dining a permanent thing.
He said that the committee will be focusing on funding, zoning, traffic and parking impact on retail stores in town.
"We are losing twelve spaces and we are looking at all aspects of it to see if we can find some more parking spaces in regards, not in that area, but in the surrounding areas," said Seney.
The owners of The Courthouse said that they would like to see some changes to the outdoor dining before it is made permanent. For example, they would like the dining space to be on their side of the street to make it safer for servers who are now crossing the street.
"We want to make sure we have a plan of action to make all of Main Street conducive for business," said Sheila Frost. "We want to make sure we have space for any store and address any parking concerns."
Both restaurant owners said that they have wanted to have permanent outdoor dining for quite some time and that this is a step in the right direction.
"It is lively and it is taking the stress off people," said Paquette.
"I have been trying for a long time to have outdoor dining. If we end up with that because of the pandemic, that will certainly be a bright spot," said James Frost.