Here is more evidence — in case you needed any — that no good deed goes unpunished.

The city of Frederick has been trying to help restaurants that are struggling to stay alive during the coronavirus pandemic, when state rules limit indoor dining rooms to 50 percent of normal capacity to try to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The city decided to bend and, in some cases, ignore the zoning rules. It closed a section of North Market Street and permits restaurants lining the street to set up tables on the roadway.

It also created little “parklets” in parking spaces so other eateries could have a few tables outside. And it relaxed the rules on outdoor dining all around the city.

The Market Street closure seems to be helping. On a typical Saturday afternoon downtown, hundreds of people can be found dining al fresco. But nearby restaurants that did not benefit from the closure are crying foul.

Sherif Salem, co-owner of Hootch and Banter, told News-Post reporter Erika Riley that he feels as if the closure of Market Street between Patrick and 2nd streets creates an “uneven playing field” for restaurants not located on that strip.

He is absolutely correct. And there is very little that can be done about it.

Salem’s location, at 49 S. Market, just north of Carroll Creek Park, has been a good one in past summers. Events such as the Alive at Five concerts would draw hundreds to the area, and restaurants would be flooded with customers.

In our pandemic summer, though, the Carroll Creek festivals have been canceled.

“Now with everything canceled, and having them close Market Street from Patrick to 2nd, the city has created an environment where it’s a draw to go to North Market and there are zero draws to come to South Market,” Salem said.

Salem and the other restauranteurs on South Market would like to have their section of the street closed too, but that just can’t happen. The United Steam Fire Engine Co. is at 79 S. Market. If firefighters are called to anything on the west side of the city, the engine goes north on Market — right past Hootch and Banter — and left on Patrick Street.

Just look at a map and you’ll see there is no simple way to get equipment to a fire on the west side without driving up Market Street. The city cannot take a chance on delaying fire response by precious minutes so that people can eat in the street.

We are sympathetic to Salem and the other restaurant owners who are harmed by the Market Street closing. But the city can’t help everyone. It may not be fair, but neither is life. Especially now.

Richard Griffin, director of Economic Development for the city, said he has not heard from any restaurants who want to do outdoor dining and have not been able to.

Hootch and Banter could not do a parklet because Salem does not have parking spots in front of his restaurant. He was given the option of doing a pop-up restaurant on Carroll Creek, but decided against it. The idea of sending servers loaded with trays of food down Market’s sidewalks and out to the creek does seem impractical.

Shuckin’ Shack, another South Market place, wanted to use a neighboring parking lot owned by ReMax Realtors and got the firm’s permission to use it. However, co-owner Wade Newman told our reporter the city turned down the plan because he did not own the property. That sounds like a situation where the city could be flexible.

While the city is trying to help businesses survive this pandemic, we need to accept the fact that until a vaccine is developed, becomes widely available and is administered to most people, we are not returning to anything approximating normal.

If the local and state pandemic restrictions continue into the fall, colder weather will eventually limit the usefulness of any outside dining. City leaders and local business people will have to come up with some other alternatives. If the pandemic worsens, then all bets are off.

Let’s face it: This is the best we can do.

(8) comments

petersamuel

This editorial is mistaken in claiming road space can't be taken for extra outdoor dining on South Market St because of fire trucks based at 79 S Market. Those fire trucks only use a single traffic lane and there are two traffic lanes. One of the two should be turned over to the use of pedestrians and diners, and the fire trucks will get by fine in the remaining single lane as they do everywhere else in the City.

gardenwhimsey

The fire/emergency vehicles have to swing wide when they leave the station and they need both lanes when they return and back into the station house. You cannot expect them to have just one lane available to them. Which is more important to the greater good of the city...the fire/emergency apparatus or people eating out during a pandemic?

KR999

"No good deed goes unpunished?" I always heard it as "No good deed goes unrewarded."

rlmmkm

Could emergency vehicles and personnel be staged outside of the closure area? Stage them a few blocks outside the closure sure during the closure period. They do not have to be in a firehouse in order to be dispatched.

tmawdsley

"Let's face it:This is the best we can do." You can't be serious espousing that kind of thinking. Please don't discourage any individual, business or government official from coming up with more ideas to try out. We've got a long way to go combating this pandemic; more new ideas should be welcomed not discouraged.

MD1756

Dining out is a luxury. If anyone has questionable finances they would be better off saving their money Maybe in case they get the virus and are forced out of work if they aren't out of work already). We shouldn't be putting people's health and safety at risk so some can enjoy a luxury.

bpswp

NYC closed part of Broadway years ago to make room for tables, dining, and pedestrians. If this can happen on Broadway, it can happen in Frederick. Close one lane of Market from South St to 6th. This would accommodate all restaurants on Market. Deliveries need to happen before noon.

sevenstones1000

Have you seen fire trucks leave or return to the station?

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