LAKEWOOD, Ohio — The City of Lakewood is deciding whether to approve an application for one of its restaurants to install a parklet, expanded seating outside the restaurant that stretches into metered parking spaces.
While the city of Cleveland has been allowing restaurants to obtain permits for parklets, Lakewood has not yet done so. But on Monday, Lakewood City Council voted to approve parklet guidelines for restaurants in the city.
That restaurant, LBM on Madison Avenue, was approved Tuesday, and according to Tom Bullock, a council member, LBM was the only restaurant that has applied. The restaurant will build a safe outdoor dining area in the curb lane.
"I don't know if we all appreciate how hard it is for businesses to be able to tighten their belts and make it through months and months of uncertainty," Bullock said. "COVID is showing no signs of letting up. We've gotta plan to be in this mode for the next, I don't know, nine months, 18 months. So we're seeking ways to help businesses be able to be resilient and operate and add back employees so that we all can have a vibrant economy and our neighbors are doing better."
He said he hopes the city council and city government can help restaurants and businesses weather this crisis.
"The city has an interest in helping our residents be able to make it and pay the rent and stay healthy," Bullock said. "And the same goes double for businesses because the businesses employ people who can shop, pay taxes, pay their own rent."
Parklets have been successful in the City of Cleveland, according to businesses that have implemented them.
"Instead of cars in the street, we have these linear beer gardens," Sam McNulty said. "There's AstroTurf, picnic tables. We have umbrellas and flowers and plants."
McNulty is the owner and chief beer taster at Market Garden, Biermarkt, Nano Brew, and Bar Cento. He said those parklets have allowed for the addition of approximately 200 seats outdoors, during a time when social distancing and health guidelines mean fewer seats inside.
"It's been transformative. It's taken what’s been a dire situation for everybody in the hospitality industry, and it's given us a little glimmer of hope that we can get through this summer and into fall," McNulty said. "And hopefully, you know, we look forward to better times ahead."
At Great Lakes Brewing Company, Adam Ritterspach, the communications coordinator, said parklets have allowed the brewpub to expand its seating by about six tables or about 24 seats. That helped the brewpub make up some of the seating lost inside the restaurant and beer garden.
"It's just allowing people to be able to enjoy our beer, our food, and our beautiful neighborhood in a way that's just a little bit more spread out," Ritterspach said.
He noted that customer reaction so far "has been overwhelmingly positive."
"We have gone above and beyond to make sure that we're adhering and meeting all of the guidelines that are recommended by the city of Cleveland, the Ohio [Department of Health], and having this extra seating out on Market Avenue, it’s just extra cushion for people to have that physical distancing," Ritterspach said.
Because this is all happening late in the summer, Councilman Bullock said he expects that if things go well for LBM, other Lakewood restaurants will apply in the spring to have parklets for next year.
"We started this conversation on Memorial Day and it took us a while," Bullock said. "The good news is that we have now gotten to the stage where there are a list of instructions for business to apply and deal with safety, deal with ADA access, deal with a bunch of other things related to utilities and stormwater flows."
He added that he hoped Lakewood could be a leader in this, alongside Cleveland, by helping businesses to gain new flexibility.
In Cleveland, McNulty said the permits only go until November 1. He hopes the city will see it's working well for many restaurants and will decide to do this yearly or even year-round.
"Parklets have been happening all over the globe for decades now," McNulty, whose background is in city planning, said.
He added, "Both from a city planning perspective, a business perspective and just general well-being being of the populace perspective, parklets make a lot of sense."
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