City poised to close street to accommodate outdoor dining

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

Richard Lynch, of Burlington, calls the COVID-19 pandemic a catastrophic event for the restaurant and tavern industry.

Lynch said the pandemic is unlike anything he has seen in his decades of experience as an industry executive.

Lynch presented possible solutions to the Burlington Common Council at Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

Richard Lynch

Lynch, brought in by Mayor Jeannie Hefty, has been involved in discussions with county officials and local business owners within the last month.

“The restaurant industry in particular is one that has been particularly hard hit,” he said. “The restaurant industry is estimating that between 20 and 60% of all bars and restaurants will not survive this. That is pretty sobering and I have no reason to believe that Burlington is exempt from that.”

The industry, according to Lynch, has been hit hard because of temporary closures locally and nationally to stem the spread of COVID-19.

While some restaurants and taverns have restarted operations, establishments have had to limit capacity to promote social distancing, which has hindered profit margins.

“This problem is unprecedented and the solution is going to have to be unprecedented,” he said. “Social distancing is going to be extremely difficult in these small footprints of Burlington restaurants.”


Expand the premises

Lynch presented two ideas related to outdoor seating for restaurants and bars in downtown Burlington.

Both ideas will involve amending some ordinances, including liquor license regulations, Lynch indicated.

The first idea, he said, includes designated outdoor areas in all restaurants and bars that choose to participate during regular business hours. The dining area expansion will allow to take up 2-3 parking spots next to a restaurant, existing parking lot or sidewalks.

Lynch’s other idea involves closing vehicle access to specific downtown streets on Friday and Saturday evenings to allow the streets to be used for dining with safe social distancing.

He outlined two areas, the Chestnut Street loop and Pine Street from Milwaukee Avenue to Washington Street.

Street closures, according to Lynch, have seen proven success in the city with the Tall Tales Music Festival as well as wine walks.

City staff ruled out the Pine Street proposal because the state Department of Transportation plans to use it as a detour when crews resurface the Burlington bypass just west of city limits after Memorial Day.

      To read the entire story see the May 21 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.