HOBOKEN, NJ - The Hoboken City Council approved the City's comprehensive Business Recovery Plan to expand outdoor space for small businesses, giving restaurants an outside chance when al fresco dining returns to restaurants on June 15.
The initiative was introduced a few weeks ago by Council President Jen Giattino and First Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco.
“We want Hoboken businesses to have as many tools at their disposal to expand outdoor operations, which is what this new ordinance provides for,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “Hoboken is committed to making the best use of public space through expanded sidewalks, streateries, parklets and closed streets, to give our businesses a fighting chance. I encourage all small business owners who wish to gain additional outdoor capacity to apply as soon as possible, to hit the ground running on June 15. Thank you to Council President Giattino, Councilman DeFusco and the entire Council for the strong support for these positive changes.”
Hoboken was among the first to enact lockdowns on local businesses due to COVID-19, and in doing so became “the model” for the regional response to the pandemic. Those businesses are just now returning to some form of life, and face an already uncertain future in the days, weeks, months ahead.
“Hoboken will continue to fight for our businesses, and the ordinance we passed today will expand outdoor capacity and lift up our small business owners,” said Giattino. “During this national pandemic, we are doing everything we can to keep our businesses successful and keep our customers safe, and I’m glad to work with the Council and Mayor to make this outdoor expansion a reality.”
The birthplace of American brewing, Hoboken’s legendary nightlife scene is a vital industry here in town—yet the immediacy of the ongoing virus threat is taking precedent.
“Creating innovative outdoor spaces for our small businesses is something that I am excited to have advanced on the City Council,” said DeFusco. “By working with the Mayor, his administration and the Council President, we are putting forward the no nonsense solutions our businesses and residents are looking for to begin recovering from this pandemic. Now more than ever we need to maximize on underutilized spaces throughout Hoboken and I look forward to a collaborative process with the business community to activate these areas to help mom and pops succeed while keeping with the charm of our city.”
The news is obviously welcome for the local business scene.
"The Hoboken Business Alliance has been working with the city and business owners to find ways to support the reopening of our businesses," says organization president Gregory Dell'Aquilla. "We urge business owners and commercial property owners to go to our website and register with us. Let’s continue to build our partnership so we can be more responsive and supportive of your needs during the reopening and beyond."
The ordinance includes flexible provisions to facilitate an outdoor expansion by local businesses, and permits the following through an expedited approval process:
Sidewalk café expansion
- Daily outdoor sidewalk cafes can extend hours of operation by one hour on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays
- Sidewalk cafes can expand, so long as six feet of sidewalk width is maintained
- Businesses can expand outdoor cafes to adjacent properties with the neighboring property owner’s consent
- Tables in sidewalk cafe must be 6 feet apart measured from backs of opposite chairs to promote social distancing
Streatery: new outdoor shared spaces
- Daily outdoor, shared public space that temporarily converts curbside parking spaces for outdoor dining where take-away food and beverages can be consumed
- Dining space separated from adjacent parking and travel lane using moveable safety barriers such as barricades, planters, bollards, or similar structures
- Tables in streatery must be 6 feet apart measured from backs of opposite chairs to promote social distancing
Parklets: new outdoor shared spaces
- Seasonal public seating platform that temporarily converts curbside parking into a mini-park as an extension of the sidewalk
- Semi-public parklet built in partnership between the city and a specific local business
- Enclosed from adjacent parking spaces and travel lane using built-in safety barriers such as planters, bench, wall, railings, bollards
- Six feet of separation to be maintained between tables in a parklet (or streatery) to promote social distancing
Open streets for businesses and pedestrians
- Permits certain City streets to close for three contiguous blocks, to facilitate outdoor retail and dining with tables and chairs in the street in a socially distanced setup
- Initially proposed for Sundays and Thursday evenings, schedule may change
- Designed to expand outdoor seating capacity for businesses with additional space, as opposed to congregating or a “block party”
- City facilitates road closures through expedited event approval process
- Open streets plan builds off pilot open streets on Jefferson Street and Adams Street to facilitate additional socially distanced space for pedestrians for biking, walking and jogging
Expanded retail use of sidewalks
- Retail businesses and services can use the area in front of their stores to display merchandise during business hours
- Permits outdoor signage that was previously prohibited
Flexibility and waiving of fees
- Options for expanding outdoor capacity are flexible to accommodate different locations and types of businesses
- Application process will provide general design guidelines for sidewalk cafés, streateries, and parklets; each application will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis
- Sidewalk café fee waived for 2020
- City is exploring various options with the Hoboken Business Alliance and other groups to help subsidize the cost of the streateries, parklets, and open streets
Information on the application process for bar and restaurant owners can be found HERE. Sources have expressed frustration over communication lags in application process to date, but are hoping that Murphy's statement earlier this week and the Council's approval Wednesday may give way to a more fluid process between now and June 15.
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