Police Commission Votes 3-0 To Extend Outdoor Dining Set-Ups on Main and Elm through Feb. 17

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Elm Street in New Canaan on Nov. 29, 2020. Credit: Michael Dinan

The Police Commission last week voted unanimously to allow Main and Elm Street restaurants to keep their COVID-19 outdoor dining set-ups—where tables are out on sidewalks, and some pedestrian access ways dip behind barriers into the street—for another month.

Created last May and extended periodically since then, the temporary sidewalk and parking configurations are designed to give more outdoor dining space to restaurants that have been under changing capacity restrictions since the onset of COVID-19 virus. (As of Nov. 6, under the governor’s order, they’re allowed no more than 50% capacity total between indoor and outdoor dining.)

“It’s more that the weather’s been great,” Commission Chair Paul Foley said at the appointed body’s Jan. 20 meeting, held via videoconference. “Let’s try to help the merchants there, and the restaurant owners-operators, as much as possible.”

Foley, Commission Secretary Jim McLaughlin and member Shekaiba Bennet voted 3-0 to extend the set-ups through Feb. 17. The Commission oversees on-street parking and road closures in New Canaan.

McLaughlin said he’d spoken to some restaurateurs on Elm Street “and they really do want and need the business.”

“So that they are in favor, the ones I spoke to, of keeping it going,” he said.

Many restaurants are using space heating devices for those who choose to dine outside.

Forest Street in New Canaan on Nov. 29, 2020. Credit: Michael Dinan

Restaurant owners on Forest Street unanimously did not want to continue with the barrier setup there, according to Laura Budd, director of the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce. 

“They said they they are not going to have a lot of outdoor dining,” she said. “They don’t get a lot of direct sunlight there.”

It’s unclear how widely the plastic barriers were embraced by restaurateurs on Forest—a one-way street with a single traffic lane.

Last summer, some told town officials that it would have been more helpful to allow them to have outdoor dining on the west side of Forest while directing walk-through pedestrians to the other side of the street.

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