Downtown St. John's restaurants may take their business to the streets to recover from COVID-19
Mayor Danny Breen says consultation is underway and will happen 'fairly quickly'
St. John's Mayor Danny Breen says the city is looking at options to allow restaurants downtown to expand their patios into public spaces for the summer season, which could help make up for business lost during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Breen said the city is consulting its regulatory authorities, Downtown St. John's — an advocacy group representing businesses in the area — and the George Street Association to develop plans.
"This process will happen fairly quickly and we'll see where we go from there," Breen said Monday.
Breen said some of the options under consideration include restricting Water Street to pedestrians or reconfiguring some of the parking areas and sidewalks.
He said there will be a "crunch on capacity" for restaurants to keep in line with public health measures, but the city wants to assist businesses in reopening in whatever way it can.
"I think it's completely understandable that businesses are going to need a lot of help in getting through the reopening phase, and getting back up and running," he said.
"We have to look at ways restaurants can get their capacity numbers up so that they can make their business operations work for them."
If the city does move to allow restaurants to fill some parking spots with tables for outdoor dining, it will limit the parking capacity in the downtown area for those looking to dine out.
Breen said parking could be an issue, but it's a tradeoff to allow restaurants to expand and gain back business lost amid the pandemic.
However, Breen said there is capacity in the city's parking garage on Harbour Drive, as well as a paid parking initiative slated to come online.
"Available parking is one of the things that's important to businesses, so we have to make that work with the businesses," he said. "And that's some of the feedback that we get."
With files from Peter Cowan