CITY HALL SEEKS TO HELP RESTAURANTS
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – The hottest restaurant in Oneonta could soon Be … Main Street?
“One thing our ‘Survive and Thrive’ task force is exploring is shutting down streets to traffic for special dining events,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “We don’t have a plan yet, but we’re looking into what streets we could close when and how that would affect traffic downtown.”
As COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease, restaurants are looking for ways to bring customers in to dine while maintaining social distancing.
“It will be a while before restaurants can fully reopen,” said Herzig. “They won’t be able to operate as they did previously, they won’t be able to have a full house. Having outdoor seating allows restaurants to operate at greater capacity, while allowing people to feel safer.”
Restaurants are slated for reopening under Phase Three of un-PAUSE – mid-June at the earliest – but Herzig said that no guidelines have been issued for what that reopening might look like.
Currently, the city does not require permits for restaurants to put tables out in front of their restaurants, so long as there is still five feet of sidewalk for pedestrians.
“We think it’s a great idea,” said Barbara Ann Heegan, president, Otsego County Chamber of Commerce. “Anything that can bring people downtown and let them see their friends and have that camaraderie from a safe distance.”
Jaclyn Origoni, who owns Latte Lounge with her husband Adrian, said she had reached out to Herzig about putting tables in Muller Plaza.
“We don’t have much room to expand, but putting tables there would benefit not only us, but the other restaurants on Main Street as well,” she said. “Dining outside is a safe way to support local businesses, but not create a risk in gathering.”
Heegan said that the Hill City Grill and WiseGuys Sammy’s have both expressed interest in putting out tables in front of their restaurants.
Heegan also floated the idea of encouraging diners to take their to-go dinners to Neahwa or Wilber Park. “We could put more tables down there, or people could just picnic, as long as they’re social distancing,” she said. “We could even have bands playing some nights.”