LOWVILLE — ReBoot LC discussions led to a kick-start opportunity for flagging restaurants with the creation of weekend outdoor “food court” seating in the village center this weekend.
Shady Avenue from State Street to the Town Hall Theatre is cordoned off and filled with 25 picnic tables, situated with six feet between them, where patrons at area restaurants can sit and enjoy their takeout food in the new normal of COVID-19 on the way to Phase IV of reopening, which will include restaurants.
The impromptu food court seating will be open from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Like a food court in a mall, no table service will be available, but people are encouraged to buy food at any of the village restaurants and grab a seat at the tables to enjoy their meals.
Table seating is limited with only six people allowed at each, and people are asked to social distance if they are waiting for a spot to open, and, as required, to wear a mask until able to sit and eat.
The idea came out of questions about outdoor seating during a number of the ReBoot LC sessions produced by the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce and Naturally Lewis — a series of webinars held on Facebook to address the challenges facing businesses during the health crisis — but the actual planning only began Thursday morning.
According to the chamber director, the quick turnaround was possible through the collaboration of a number of organizations and agencies: the village board quickly approved the idea; the picnic tables were loaned by the Lewis County Agricultural Society; the county provided the means and manpower to get the tables from the Fairgrounds to Shady Avenue; volunteers set up the tables; Double B Contracting provided a hand-washing station; and Village Police Chief Randy Roggie agreed to have his crew keep an eye on the place to ensure all goes well over the weekend.
The initial intent was to have the area cordoned off all week on an ongoing basis, but village Mayor Joseph Beagle said because of the ongoing Five Streets infrastructure project in full operation around the village, only the weekend is practical.
“There’s no construction during the weekend so this is a good chance to try something like this out,” Mr. Beagle said. “Hopefully the weather will cooperate and some people will take the chance to get out and be social again, but they still have to respect social distancing and wear face masks unless they are eating.”
The courtyard is also a test run for similar opportunities in the near and distant future.
If people fail to respect the social distancing and safety rules, this may be a one-off event Mrs. Aucter said, but if attendees do their best to try the “new normal,” the courtyard will be open on a continuing basis and may lead to other events.
“I’m anxious to see how it will work out because before COVID, I though about doing a block party like they do in Watertown, on Shady,” Mr. Beagle said. “It’s a perfect spot for it. The Food Truck Fridays did really well, too. I thought the block party could work so this is kind of a test.”
While restaurants won’t be allowed to officially reopen until Phase III of the state’s plan to reawaken the economy as the spread of COVID-19 appears to be ebbing under certain conditions, the outdoor seating allowance was announced on Wednesday by Governor Andrew Cuomo and went into effect on Thursday.