WESTFIELD, NJ — Even though the weather is getting cooler, restaurateurs have warmed up to their parklets, parking spots converted into outdoor dining spaces, and may be able to keep them well into the winter.
The Board of Downtown Westfield Corporation, the government entity managing the town’s special improvement district, on Wednesday decided that restaurants would be permitted to keep the outdoor dining spaces into the wintertime as long as there’s no major snowfall.
Bob Zuckerman, executive director of Downtown Westfield Corporation, said that the town had initially planned to take down the parklets on Dec. 1 but at the mayor’s direction surveyed restaurant owners, who indicated they would prefer to keep them up.
“The way things are going with COVID we have to be realistic,” Zuckerman said. “Indoor dining might be coming to an end soon. I hate to say that, but the way things are going we have to consider that.”
Even with debate over whether diners would be likely to eat outdoors with heaters and blankets, he said, the restaurants indicated a preference to keep the parklets.
Over the summer, the parklets started popping up around the downtown and the DWC established a system under which dining establishments could apply for permits to have a parklet or parklets set up.
Town Administrator Jim Gildea told the DWC’s board that a large snowstorm could necessitate the removal of parklets as the municipality needs space to pile the snow during such a weather event.
“The good news is we don’t have any forecast storms at this point,” Gildea said. “We can watch the weather and do what we can to make sure that these parklets stay in place.”
Lew Kimble, a member of the DWC board, said he would like to keep the parklets in place until mid-January, for restaurants’ benefit.
“You’re setting the table to give them the best opportunity to be successful in that time period,” Kimble said.
The largest parklet space remains on Quimby Street, which has been converted into a pedestrian plaza, with just one narrow traffic lane. Zuckerman suggested this space be reduced sooner as its use would be declining in the cooler weather.
“You don’t need the giant space that we have there now,” he said, adding that it may, however, be good to keep the town’s communal tent. “You don’t need all that space in the wintertime.”
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