Should Portland Close Streets And Expand Outdoor Seating To Save Restaurants?
As the war with coronavirus continues, the battles also continue when it comes to local businesses. Some of the hardest hit businesses, especially in Portland, are the restaurants. Portland was likely going to see record tourism in 2020 because of national press on it's powerhouse food scene, but a global pandemic has presented an incredible roadblock. So in a time of social distancing and the safety of customers and employees in mind, what can Portland do to help the restaurant industry in the city? One of the owners of Portland Hunt & Alpine Club had a very intriguing suggestion.
Shared on Twitter by Briana B Volk, she suggested that Portland take extraordinary measures this summer to help restaurants bring more people in and keep them safe while doing so. The suggestion is to close down several streets all across the city and allow restaurants in those areas to expand their outdoor seating capacity. By having additional space, restaurants could keep patrons six feet apart much easier and also keep them outside (weather permitting). It's an intriguing idea that's been floated before, but given the new circumstances all businesses will deal with this summer, it's an idea that needs a much closer look.
Portland has plenty of experience with closing down streets, particularly in the Old Port. From its once annual Old Port Fest, to other events, the city hasn't been afraid to shut down select streets to vehicular traffic for special occasions. But an entire summer? Well, there would be pitfalls.
For one, parking in Portland is already a daily struggle. Closing down even just a handful of streets in Portland would likely cause a squeeze for both patrons and employees. Another issue may be of fairness. Which streets are closed down and which businesses are allowed the extra outdoor seating? Does that give one business an advantage over another? Those are questions that would need answers, but it's not an impossible hill to climb.
What do you think? Would you be in favor of Portland closing select streets in Old Port Fest-style to allow for more outdoor seating and a safer restaurant experience this summer?