Frederick will allow several options for “pop-up” dining in an effort to help restaurants provide outdoor seating in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These options include one that would close a portion of North Market Street to traffic on Fridays and weekends.
The city will provide five alternatives for restaurants, which came as exciting news for establishments that don’t already have outdoor seating but are anxious to get back to serving sit-down customers.
“Oh, we’re ready,” said Keelin Mallory, the manager at Firestone’s Raw Bar said Wednesday, of the city’s plans.
She said the restaurant, which includes the Raw Bar, Firestone’s Culinary Tavern, and Firestone’s Market on Market, has already applied for a permit from the city that would allow them 24 seats at five tables.
Taco Daddy general manager Colby Cregger said his restaurant had also already applied for a permit to put tables on outside.
Cregger said he thinks the sidewalk seating is a good start, but that a “food court” option at City Hall or elsewhere would create a more level playing field.
But Ben Cohen, one of the owners of Gambrill Mt. Food Company, said his restaurant would not be adding outdoor seating at its East Street location, and would stick to carryout service.
The restaurant, which opened shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic began, wouldn’t “try to reinvent the wheel” in the middle of the process, Cohen said.
The city’s options include adding dining options on city sidewalks; in city parks, alleys, and lots; street parking spaces; on closed streets; or on private property.
The city received 1,500 responses to a survey last week looking at several options for outdoor dining, according to a city release.
The pop-up dining plan was developed with considerations for diner and pedestrian safety, Americans with Disabilities Act considerations, the needs of the city’s public works department and planning for potential extreme weather.
The city plans to maintain the options into the fall, and waive all associated permit fees.
A new permit portal is available at cityoffrederickmd.gov/popupdining.
The on-street seating includes plans to close down Market Street between Patrick and Third streets on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m., beginning June 12.
Cross streets will remain open to help minimize the disruption of traffic and help facilitate curbside pickup for restaurants, Mayor Michael O’Connor announced Wednesday morning.
A lane for emergency vehicles will be kept in the middle of the street during the closures.
Restaurant staff is just ready to get back to having people in seats.
Taco Daddy closed for about a month at the start of the pandemic, and took the time to make some renovations and bring in new equipment, Cregger said.
But even since reopening, their sales on Friday or Saturday are what they might have done on a Tuesday or Wednesday before the pandemic, he said.
Firestone’s reopened last week, Mallory said, and they know the limited outdoor seating will be an adjustment.
They had more than 100 seats between the restaurant and raw bar, and a good day before the pandemic could bring in $25,000.
They know the limited outdoor seating won’t allow those kinds of numbers.
“It’s a step in the right direction, anyway,” Mallory said.