August 7, 2020
“RollOutWarrenton” will continue, council decides
File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Customers from Northern Virginia and D.C. have flocked to Warrenton since the outdoor dining on public property started in May.
I really love what’s happened in this town. I think it’s one of the best decisions we’ve made in my four years on the council.
— Kevin Carter (Ward 5)
Warrenton will allow restaurants and stores to continue operating beyond their normal boundaries — including on parking spaces and sidewalks — into the winter.
The town council Thursday night unanimously endorsed extension of “RollOutWarrenton,” originally planned to end Sept. 1.
Warrenton relaxed zoning enforcement in May as local businesses emerged from Gov. Ralph Northam’s shutdown order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority also eased its regulations to allow service in those public spaces.
Warrenton’s response drew regional and national press coverage, and patrons flocked from Northern Virginia and D.C., where closure orders lifted more slowly.
The program applies everywhere in Warrenton, but most participants operate in Old Town.
“It’s been a hit all the way around,” Councilman Brett Hamby (Ward 3) said Thursday night. “I’d just like to make sure we make a decision to continue.”
It didn’t take long for his colleagues to agree during the council’s monthly “work session.”
Restauranteurs have embraced the opportunity, buying tables, chairs, canopies and umbrellas to expand.
Council members followed Mr. Hamby’s lead:
“I agree,” Jimmy Hartman (Ward 4) said. “So far it’s been very successful. Keep going and see what happens.”
“I’ve heard nothing but positive,” Heather Sutphin (Ward 1) added. “Let’s not just cut it off one day . . . . Let’s see what we can enjoy.”
“I really love what’s happened in this town,” Kevin Carter (Ward 5) suggested. “I think it’s one of the best decisions we’ve made in my four years on the council.”
“What we’re doing here is extraordinarily important to our Central Business District,” William Semple (Ward 2) said. “There may be ways of implementing changes that channel traffic more carefully, more slowly to side streets.
“It would be much more of a festival atmosphere if we could get other types of vendors on Main Street.”
Mayor Carter Neville, a Main Street merchant, said he no longer hears complaints about scarce parking, even though tables have taken a dozen or so spaces.
“I think the consensus is to extend this as long as possible,” Mr. Nevill said. “Let’s learn from mistakes . . . understand what the problems are.”
Leaf and snow removal will present challenges as the seasons change.
And, town officials will consider implementing fees for businesses that choose to participate, because they use “taxpayer-owned property,” the mayor noted.
Experience Old Town Warrenton surveyed business owners, most of whom indicated they would pay a fee to participate, Town Manager Brandie Schaeffer said.
Town officials have not set a date for the next phase of the program to expire. Winter weather could bring it to a close until spring, they said.
The council also will consider permanent changes in Old Town, which could expand sidewalks and seating areas. The town has applied for a $1.2-million state grant, requiring a 50-percent local match, to refurbish brick sidewalks and make other improvements downtown. But, state funding remains on hold because of the pandemic.
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Truepat · August 10, 2020 at 6:27 am
As a survivor of Covid 19 in June, these non mask wearing people don't know the physical and mental changes they are playing with this devastating virus. It is the most frightening and sick I've ever been.
Silii · August 9, 2020 at 3:29 pm
I don't disagree with doing everything possible to help our local businesses. But, I have to say, face masks are in short supply with the crowds along Main St. And, sorry, but sitting on the street with vehicle exhaust and noise isn't pleasant. Sitting there in cold weather temps won't be pleasant, either. The answer is to get covid19 under control and until more people take it seriously, it will never be under control.
Rover 530 · August 7, 2020 at 4:40 pm
I don't think this is a good idea. Can area health officials determine if any of the local people infected with the corona virus been traced to those who are dining at the on-street venues on Main Street? Charging extra fees for participating Main Street businesses makes sense since they do operate on public property but this will undoubtedly lead to higher food prices. Should those who order their food and grab-and-go have to pay these higher prices so others could eat at tables in the street?
Truepat · August 7, 2020 at 11:17 am
Mr. Mayor the parking complaints have stopped since they drive to Gainesville now or just order on line....
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