Although capacity limitations will be eliminated at restaurants on March 19, there is one community that is still placing a heavy emphasis on outdoor dining.
During the summer and fall, West Hartford’s LaSalle Road was transformed into an elaborate outdoor dining experience. Now the mayor wants to ensure the legal ability to do it again.
Adapting to the need for outdoor dining last year, West Hartford modified LaSalle Road, limiting automobile traffic and allowing restaurants to extend seating into the street.
“With all these different patios going, it was a totally different experience than what it had been in years past,” said Max Restaurant Group CEO, Scott Smith.
Allowing this to happen was the governor’s emergency declaration, temporarily modifying certain state and local laws, to expand outdoor dining. That declaration expires on April 20. West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor wants this program to continue and has proposed a town ordinance that would allow it.
“We are still in a pandemic. We still need to have expanded space,” said Cantor. “We need to support (the restaurants).”
Restauranteurs who spoke with NBC Connecticut say they support the ordinance. They say the outdoor dining program helped them recoup some of their losses due to limited capacities and other restrictions.
“When we had the street going full bloom I was almost at full capacity,” said Billy Grant, owner of Restaurant Bricco.
Smith offered similar sentiments. “It kept the restaurant alive. It kept our employees earning tips and wages,” he said.
Now, even with relaxed restrictions, restaurant owners say outdoor dining is a big part of their business plan moving forward.
“Even though we’re getting vaccinated, people are still really comfortable outside,” said Grant.
Cantor explained, the proposed ordinance will be introduced at the regular Town Council meeting on March 9 where it will be referred to the Town Plan and Zoning Commission. It will later be addressed at a public hearing.