WESTFIELD, NJ — The owners of Boxwood Coffee Roasters on East Broad Street would typically have over 60 seats available, but not for the past four months during which the state has prohibited indoor dining — the result of COVID-19, the shop’s owner said.
On Thursday morning, however, that changed as employees of the Westfield Public Works Department trucked in cement barricades to block off two parking spots in front of the café. The newly created open space — commonly called a parklet — is among an increasing number of temporary sidewalk extensions that restaurants in Westfield are using for outdoor dining.
“The addition of the parklet was essential for us to be able to launch our full menu again and rehire some of our chefs,” said Stephen Bellamy, who along with his wife, Erin, owns Boxwood Coffee Roasters. “Right now, without the parklet, we’re very limited in our seating.”
Bellamy, who applied to the Downtown Westfield Corporation for the outdoor seating area, didn’t have the figure finalized yet, but as DPW workers laid down the cement blocks, he estimated that the addition of the parklet would bring him to nearly half the seating capacity he had prior to the pandemic.
The DWC — the government entity that manages Westfield’s special improvement district — on Wednesday evening decided on guidelines for determining which establishments get parklets and in addition to approving the parklet for Boxwood Coffee Roasters, 143 East Broad St., also approved a parklet for placement in front of Farinolio, 121 East Broad St.
Bob Zuckerman, executive director of Downtown Westfield Corporation, presented rules for parklets to the DWC’s board for approval. They are as follows:
- The parklet that serves the business takes up no more than two parking spots (or four spots for a double parklet for two adjacent businesses and six spots for a triple parklet for three adjacent business, etc.).
- The business or businesses agree to help beautify the parklet(s), as the town is only responsible for placing the plain concrete barriers surrounding the parking spots.
- Preference will be given to restaurants that serve dinner, restaurants that have table service and restaurants that have liquor licenses.
Board members agreed on the new rules with the stipulation that umbrellas or a canopy be “strongly encouraged” for businesses operating a parklet. Board member Michael La Place recalled that he had been seated in a parklet outside of Vicki’s Diner, 110 East Broad St., when a downpour interrupted patrons.
“I saw people jump out of their tables because it started raining,” La Place said. “It got really disruptive.” Umbrellas seen Thursday have since been set up at that particular parklet.
While a benefit for food establishments using the spaces for business during the pandemic, Zuckerman noted, the original intent of parklets is as a shared public space — a miniature park in parking spots. The parklets on Quimby Street, he said, reflect that intent following officials’ decision to convert the street into a one-way thoroughfare seven days a week to allow space for both parklets and parking.
“I’m very optimistic that we finally found the right mix — the right balance — here for Quimby,” Zuckerman said.
This isn’t Westfield’s first experience with parklets. In 2017, Westfield installed its first parklet on Elm Street. The venture originally intended as a public space ended in controversy as the space became almost exclusively used by restaurants, which had set out the chairs for the parklet. During COVID-19 and the resulting ban on indoor dining, however, that private use of a public space is not the contested issue it once was.
As for the consumer experience?
Husband and wife Gary and Sharon Katcher, of Westfield, found themselves sipping beverages while seated in a parklet in front Rock ‘N’ Joe Coffee Bar, 20 Prospect St., and 16 Prospect Wine Bar & Bistro, 16 Prospect St., Thursday.
“It’s great,” said Sharon Katcher, while under a canopy and next to ornamental carpets covering the parklet’s cement blocks. “They should do more of it until this [pandemic] resolves itself.”
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