With Maryland poised to allow the reopening of outdoor seating and service for restaurants beginning Friday, the city of Frederick is considering various options to help make it happen.
Those options include temporary street closures, reorganizing parking and setting up tables in parks, parking lots and other areas.
The city is looking for feedback on these ideas, which were announced Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, Hogan announced he will allow outdoor seating and service starting at 5 p.m. Friday. No more than six people should be seated at outdoor tables, and the tables should be properly separated, he said.
Restaurants should use disposable menus or sanitize them between uses, he said. Face masks or coverings should be used for interactions between customers and servers and restaurant staff, he said.
Outdoor seating is expected to be extremely popular among patrons and restaurant owners alike, Mayor Michael O’Connor said at a briefing Wednesday morning, before the governor’s announcement.
The city wants to support restaurants, their workers, patrons and residents with an “optimal, safe plan” for increased outdoor seating that is in step with best practices and guidelines from the health department, he said.
One option would be to maintain the current streetscape and the existing use of parking spaces for curbside pick-up. Another would temporarily close certain blocks of Market and/or Patrick streets on certain days and at certain times to allow seating.
A third option would shift outdoor dining and pedestrian walkways into parking lanes, and let shopping centers and standalone restaurants convert parking or open areas into temporary outdoor dining, while a fourth idea would match restaurants with parks, parking areas and other open areas across the city for pop-up dining locations.
People can provide feedback on the options on the city’s website through Saturday.
“Each option has its pros and cons,” O’Connor said.
Kara Norman, executive director of the Downtown Frederick Partnership, said how many restaurants are able to take advantage of outdoor dining depends on what scenario or combination of scenarios the city selects.
The partnership would like to see any decision allow for more space for outdoor dining, continued curbside pickup, and more space for pedestrians, she said.
It will also depend on what County Executive Jan Gardner announces Thursday on how Frederick County will move forward with the next phase of reopening, Norman said.
Jim Hickey, owner of The Orchard, on North Market Street, said he’s not sure what he thinks of the proposals.
His restaurant already has a designated outdoor dining area on North Market, and they could put some more tables around the corner on West Church Street, Hickey said.
But he wouldn’t support putting tables in the parking lanes, where he feels they’d be too close to traffic, even with barriers.
“That, I’m not a fan of,” Hickey said.
He would be interested in seeing how public spaces could be used, and suggested that the city could essentially set up food courts, in which customers could get their food at a restaurant and take it to a designated spot to eat it.
But he’s not interested in having his staff wait on tables at City Hall or other areas off site.
Rick Weldon, CEO of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks most downtown restaurants would welcome expanded seating options, since curbside and carryout service can only bring in limited revenue.
But the changes are a balancing act, he said, with retail stores on the same blocks as restaurants still need on-street parking for their patrons, Weldon said in an email Wednesday.
More outdoor seating along with continued carryout service could be very beneficial.
Limiting a restaurant to a small percentage of its capacity just doesn’t provide enough business to rehire all of its serving staff, Weldon said.
“The city of Frederick deserves credit for finding creative and balanced solutions to these challenges, for the bars, restaurants, and retail shops on Market and Patrick,” he said.