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February 28, 2022

Is Warrenton bringing back parklets?

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Staff Journalist
The Warrenton Town Council is considering bringing back its “parklet” program this spring, and some local business owners are embracing the continuation of the pandemic-era tradition.

We’ve all heard the story: When the pandemic hit restaurants and stores were forced to close down for months – uncertain when they would reopen.

Towns like Warrenton sprung into action with its “Roll Out Warrenton” program which temporarily relaxed zoning rules so that businesses could seat people out on the sidewalk and the street instead of inside. These measures have helped keep businesses afloat the last couple years.

But with the pandemic now gradually fading into the background some may be wondering why the parklets are needed anymore? If you walk into any number of restaurants and stores around downtown Warrenton people are eating, drinking and shopping inside like they were before the pandemic.

Nonetheless, restaurant and store owners say parklets have become valuable to their business and should continue.

Homie Sehhat, owner of Sunny Hills American Grill at 70 Main St., said parklets almost double the amount of customers Sunny Side receives because it creates more seating.

“We have 49 seats inside,” Sehhat told Fauquier Now. “You put the parklets out, at best, the seating increases to 80.”

Sehhat said he has heard some in town oppose the parklets because they limit parking along Main Street. But he argued the increased foot traffic businesses receive make it a worthy sacrifice.

“I know for a fact, that when our business goes up, retail businesses go up because people
come here, they eat and then they walk across the street and go shopping,” Sehhat said.

David Hartman, owner of Hartman Jewelers also on Main Street, said before the pandemic his business had been declining and did not seem to be “bottoming out.” But after the town decided to implement the parklets in May 2020 Hartman’s business grew exponentially.

“We started to see increased traffic downtown and then in our store,” Hartman told Fauquier Now. “The increased traffic has created increased transactions.”

If approved by the council this would be the third consecutive year the town has implemented the parklet program.

The program was one of the first in the region during the summer of 2020, and drew regional and national press coverage back as 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.

During the Feb. 8 council meeting, Mayor Carter Nevill said the parklets have been instrumental over the last few years in bringing increased business to the town and noted he would like to see the parklets go up again as soon as possible.

​”The value of these parklets have proven itself, I think, even beyond our wildest expectations,” he said.

The council plans to review the parklet program at its next meeting March 8.
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Rgibbs · March 30, 2022 at 9:02 pm
Where are the pro-parking space people who have dragged the idea of a street mall or outdoor eateries through the muck for years now? Have we finally reached a verdict? Have Warrentonians finally come to the conclusion that outdoor spaces are beneficial to overall health and the economic prosperity of our local economy? I applaud the town council for strategically taking advantage of the pandemic to turn people’s logic around by implementing the park let idea.
Access to the post office is likely one of the only plausible reasons why all the boxes cannot be checked to construct a street mall or at least closure from the courthouse to 4th Street. Not a large street mall like other jurisdictions that attracts unwanted visitors but enough to make Old Town a daytime or weekend destination. Moving parking, except for handicapped parking which could be in closest proximity to Main Street, to the existing lots between Main and Lee would bring potential foot traffic to businesses on Lee that would otherwise go unnoticed. A one way loop taking advantage of Main and Lee would also increase window shopping rather than its current sole focus on Main.
The parklets have been eye-opening and have put the idea of parking (which we have plenty of for those who can walk 50 yards) over hospitality to rest.
Steve Michaels · March 2, 2022 at 10:52 am
Personally, sitting next to the street with cars driving by isn't my idea of a relaxing meal. If it helps the businesses ok. I'd like to see that whole section of Main Street closed off to vehicular traffic, but I would miss driving through there on occasion.
hjhyul · March 1, 2022 at 8:33 pm
That's a good sign. I look forward to positive changes happy wheels
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