Now that Gov. Sununu and the reopening task force has given the green light to New Hampshire restaurants to open with outdoor seating and appropriate distancing … I’m proposing that the city of Keene can play a vital role in helping our local restaurants to survive.
Any of us that have traveled have seen central squares in cities around the world filled with outside restaurants, cafes, bars, etc., all existing next to one another … and each identified by the color of the umbrella at each table. Why not turn downtown Keene into this type of dining experience four nights a week. Here’s how:
1. Main Street, from Emerald Street north to Central Square, would be closed to traffic, making it a pedestrian walkway. This would be done Thursday afternoon through Sunday night, or four nights per week. I’m sure there are issues in closing this area to traffic, but the city does this several times a year for downtown festivals … so it can be done.
2. Restaurants along Main Street would be allowed to expand their seating onto the sidewalk and first lane of Main Street (closest to their storefront). The two lanes of Main Street closest to the middle island (one north and one south) would be left open for pedestrian traffic.
3. The city would purchase folding tables, the size and shape of which would be selected to maximize seating, maintain the correct social distancing and standardize seating across the area. Each table would have a center hole for an umbrella. These tables would be stored by the city and rented to local restaurants for a low weekly rental rate. They would also be distributed and picked up weekly by city personnel. Example: Estimated cost of table $175. Rental rate $3/table/night x four nights per week x 15 summer/fall weeks = $180. These figures could certainly change, but it seems possible to get to break-even by the end of this summer season.
4. Each restaurant would be responsible for purchasing and storing their own umbrellas. These could be plain or customized … but would be encouraged to be different in color/appearance from other nearby restaurants.
5. This proposal would not include entertainment (bands, street artists, etc.) or anything else that would encourage additional people to gather. However, additional lighting (e.g., strings of lights) would greatly add to the atmosphere.
It’s time for the city to step up, help our local restaurants, and lift our spirits.
101 Bradford Road