Will Outdoor Seating Save Our Restaurants? It's Not an Easy Fix, Chamber Says | WCAI

Will Outdoor Seating Save Our Restaurants? It's Not an Easy Fix, Chamber Says

May 7, 2020

As restaurants plan ways to safely reopen for table service, some Cape and Islands communities are considering expanded outdoor seating.

Among the communities investigating the idea is Falmouth, where people have proposed closing a section of Main Street to vehicles to allow for European-style seating at outdoor tables.

Michael Kasparian, CEO of the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce, tells WCAI the chamber initially favored it, but since then, has heard from retailers who oppose the idea.

“Some folks have said that they think that it’s better for the businesses to have cars driving down there,” he said.

He said merchants want people who are out driving to see that businesses are open, and see the advertising in their windows.

And some are concerned that a closed street would become a distraction, “and that people would be coming down, kind of hanging around, and not really supporting their businesses,” he said.

Kasparian said alternatives could include closing parts of adjacent streets, such as Academy Lane, Library Lane, and Shore Street Extension.

But that raises the question, he said, of whether wait staff would cross the street to provide table service. And if the tables were just for takeout, who would be responsible for sanitizing them?

“In the beginning, the chamber embraced it as a very good idea and thought that it would be something that would be fairly simple to put into place,” he said. “But frankly, after reaching out to a lot of the members that we have along Main Street, we found that there is a lot of opposition to that from several of the merchants, and even the restaurants along Main Street.”

Although restaurants aren’t doing their regular business, many have been able to generate revenue with takeout. Other retailers have been hit very hard, he said.

“They’ve been shuttered,” he said. “And those who don’t have an ability to do any online sales really are suffering badly, and it’s a lot of those folks who we’ve heard from.”

Kasparian said he hopes the town of Falmouth will conduct a survey to guide reopening plans for the downtown shopping district.

“It really does need to be led by the town,” he said.