WALLINGFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Throughout the summer months, outdoor dining has given Connecticut restaurants a fighting chance as COVID-19 limited indoor dining options. In Wallingford, their Ordinance Committee has approved an extension to outdoor dining, all to give restaurants a little more of a fighting chance.
“It all starts with asking a question,” said Chris Shortell, the Ordinance Committee Chairman in Wallingford. “And it was ‘why does it end on the 31 of October and not begin until April 1?'”
In the age of COVID-19, we’ve seen a little creativity. People and organizations making the best of a bad situation. In Wallingford, it meant something as simple as amending an ordinance that limited the time frame of dining on public sidewalks.
In a unanimous decision, the town council changed the window from April 1 – Oct. 31, to March 1 – Nov. 30.
“I’d always wondered, November can be a warm month, and I always kind of felt like, ‘man, why do we close it down so soon?’ And then with COVID it just reinforced, ‘why don’t we ask these questions?’ And ‘let’s see if we can make some changes.’ So, that’s where it came from.” Shortell said.
To be clear, the ordinance just covers the center of town. Shortell said you’re dealing with public vs. private property.
“For the most part, those are the restaurants that have sidewalk dining, and the sidewalks are, of course, public,” Shortell said.
These type of events, according to Shortell, bring people together.
“From the government perspective – local government – if our job is to be creative and, where we can, loosen the burden on restaurants,” Shortell said.
Ideally, Shortell would like to help other restaurants, too, on Route 5, for instance. He thinks it’s worth taking a look at some of the town’s other existing ordinances.
“Planning and Zoning really owns a lot of the areas in terms of the rest of the town, but I think we’ll be looking to champion other ideas to see what we can do to encourage this again, beyond COVID,” Shortell said.
Some restaurants have moved into the parking areas to create more outdoor seating, which is not part of the ordinance. That is separate; it was part of Governor Ned Lamont’s executive order.
Shortell told News 8 the extension will go beyond COVID. It’s here to stay.