Published in the June 9, 2020 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — The Town has been working on a re-opening plan to help local restaurants and other businesses and has been waiting for the governor’s go-ahead for Phase 2, which he issued on Saturday.
Moving quickly, the Town Council last night voted to implement a set of guidelines developed by Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio and his emergency management team that will allow restaurants to expand outdoor seating onto sidewalks and into parking spaces in front of their establishments. These measures will be permitted from 12 noon on Thursdays to 10 p.m. on Sundays.
Restaurants with liquor licenses will also be able to apply for a local modification of their license that will allow them to serve alcohol in these designated outdoor seating areas. They will be able to use a streamlined process that avoids the red tape that would normally be involved.
Maio reviewed the plan with the Town Council last night.
He noted that participation in the plan will be voluntary and not all restaurants may choose to participate. He also stressed that “outdoor means outdoor.” Restaurants with full-length widows that open to the sidewalk are still considered indoors.
Bars and bar seating are still not allowed, Maio said.
Initially, the state had said that tents would not be allowed, Maio explained, but that has since been modified to allow tents where at least 50 percent of the perimeter is open.
The state has also granted relief to restaurants from certain zoning requirements like parking, if using adjacent parking spaces for tables causes them to fall below the minimum parking required. The state also OK’d the streamlined process that will allow restaurants to serve liquor in newly designated outdoor seating areas.
Maio described the specific areas where the public way may be used for expanded restaurant seating. He noted that for safety, concrete Jersey barriers and crowd fencing will be put in place every Thursday and removed every Sunday night to protect the designated areas, which include:
• The angled parking areas on Main Street in front of Sabatino’s restaurant.
• The angled parking spaces on Main Street from Albion Street to Richardson Avenue.
• The parallel parking spots in front of the Blue Moon Grill on Main Street in Greenwood.
• The angled parking spaces in front of Harrington’s Pub and Caffe Italia on Water Street.
• The east side of Tuttle Street from in front of the several restaurants there.
• North Avenue in front of the North Avenue Diner.
Maio said that there will be a police officer walking in these areas to assure safety.
Maio said establishments that wish to utilize these outdoor areas adjacent to their building will need to complete a simple application, provide their own tables and chairs, provide six feet between tables and follow all state and local health safety protocols.
Seating will be done in these outdoor dining areas on a reservation basis for a maximum of 90 minutes per seating. Parties will be limited to six and contact logs will be maintained.
Diners will be allowed inside the restaurants to use bathrooms.
The Town Council last night took a number of votes that will allow the plan to go into effect starting on Thursday of this week. Businesses will be notified as soon as today that it is now official so that they can begin preparing.
In addition to restaurants, retail stores will also be able open with limited indoor capacity and will be allowed to use sidewalks in front of their stores as long as access is sufficient for pedestrians and wheelchairs.
There was some discussion of closing down all of Main Street in the Square on the weekends, but Maio said that doing so would rob other businesses of parking and make access to other stores difficult.
Town Council Chair Ann Santos suggested thinking about some sort of hybrid arrangement, such as closing all of Main Street to vehicles on weekend evenings, after other businesses have closed for the day.
Maio said that the initial plan can be modified and improved at any time based on the response and lessons learned along the way.
In other re-opening news, Maio said that beginning next week, Town Hall will be open by appointment only. He noted that most business can still be conducted online or over the phone. He observed that municipalities are “all over the map” on opening town and city halls. Some are already open, he said, while others won’t open for a least a month.
Maio noted that under Phase 2 hotels can open with limited capacity.
Funeral homes are also allowed to re-open under Phase 2.
Playgrounds are now open, including children’s equipment. Sports activities are limited to non-contact sports. There can be no games or scrimMages and groups are limited to 10. The Wakefield Recreation Department plans to begin offering small group activities outdoors starting in July.