HARTFORD, Conn —
Restaurants will be able to open come May 20th but will be limited to outdoor seating. It’s good news for some restaurants, but not all considering a number of places don’t have outdoor seating although some city officials are looking to give owners more options to expand.
In Hartford, the Planning and Zoning Commission said it’ll be changing current zoning regulations to expand outdoor seating options to include sidewalks and parking lots and will also allow restaurants to build bigger outdoor cafes.
“Right now what we’ve said to restaurants is that if you want an outdoor cafe and to going into a sidewalk it’s limited to about six hundred square feet, the new regulations will take that six hundred acquire feet and toss it out the window,” Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Sara Bronin said.
Although there will be more flexibility, restaurant owners will still have to present their plans to the commission.
“So the Commission or Zoning Administrator could look at the size of the lot, could look at the width of the sidewalk, could also look to see if the restaurant or bar has a parking lot,” Bronin said. “You do have to come in to make sure that the design works and people that will be safe sitting out there.”
Hartford officials are even considering the possibility of shutting down streets in exchange for more outdoor space.
“Cities around the country are experimenting with closing the streets to allow people to walk in the streets and in some cases, bring their outdoor cafes in the street,” Bronin said. It’s not in the purview of the zoning commission, it’s in the purview of the mayor and city council, but I can assure you we are working together to find solutions for restaurants to safely open.”
Restaurants owners agree expanding outdoor seating is key to bringing in more customers in a safe way.
“It’d be great if we could start serving outside of Trumbull kitchen and at Max Downtown there’s one area I think we were talking about we might be able to put in a deck and some seating,” Max Restaurant Group Vice President Scott Smith said.
Although Smith also said it's going to be a balancing act reopening on May 20th while putting public safety first.
“While we have a business and we have people we want to keep employed at the same time we have a responsibility to the people coming in that we’re still able to provide a safe environment,” Smith said.
The Planning and Zoning commission is set to consider expansion changes at their next meeting on May 26th.
“So for the restaurants out there, we would encourage you to start thinking about how you can expand your space outdoors and start thinking of the kind of configurations and seating, for when we hopefully approve this on May 26th,” Bronin said.