BARBERTON, Ohio — The city of Barberton is considering a plan to temporarily close some downtown streets so that bars and restaurants can put tables and chairs in the road.
Councilman Shaun Rocky Jaber came up with the idea as a way of encouraging people to support businesses that have been hurt by the pandemic.
"This way, we can help the businesses that have been shut down for the last month and a half, two months. And that way, we can boost the economy better," Jaber said.
Jaber said the plan, which is still being examined by Mayor William Judge and other council members, would shut down West Tuscarawas Avenue from Second Street Northwest to Eighth Street Northwest for a few evenings a week until restrictions were lifted.
Ohio restaurants are allowed to open for outdoor dining on Friday. Dine-in service can resume May 21.
Jaber said many restaurants are struggling to create adequate social distancing space inside without drastically reducing the number of customers they can serve.
He believes putting seats in the streets - weather permitting - will help employees and diners feel more comfortable.
"Don't get me wrong," Jaber said. "This COVID-19 is very, very dangerous and the governor is correct. It's still an epidemic, so we've got to take our safety procedures and keep our separating."
Daniel Sanchez, who owns Case Del Ranchero on West Tuscarawas Avenue, said revenue has dropped about 35% over the past two months and he had to lay off a few employees. Like many restaurant owners, Sanchez has been forced to rely on carryout only.
"It's been hard to get through it," Sanchez said. "Something has to give at some point. It's just hard to get through on carryout on a daily basis."
Sanchez is continuing to work on a plan to reopen for inside dining, but believes the added outdoor option would help draw customers.
"It would make a difference tremendously being able to have tables out here, being able to sit even it would be 10 to 15 more people. That's still people out here that we can serve," he said.
The bars and restaurants would not be able to serve alcohol in the streets unless Barberton applies for and receives a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area permit from the state.
Judge said the city continues to investigate whether the Barberton area would qualify for a permit.
He also said the city is also taking into consideration the concerns from other shop owners who are worried about losing storefront parking if the road shutdown occurs.
The city expects to make a decision on outdoor dining plan by early next week.
"You want people to come together, work as a team and you want ideas. This is just an idea and now we're working as a team to see if we can make it happen," Jaber said.