BALLSTON SPA — Village officials have announced that a section of Front Street will be closed during dinner hours a three nights a week in an effort to boost business at local restaurants that were forced to cease sit-down service in March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
With the Capital Region in Phase 2 of re-opening and socially distanced outdoor dining now allowed, the Village Board voted last week to close the section of Front Street between Low and Bath streets between the hours of 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, so restaurants can expand their outdoor seating. The new rules will take effect on Thursday, June 18.
By then, the region is expected to have entered Phase 3, which will allow limited indoor dining. However the move would still give the restaurants more opportunities to serve customers, as long as the weather is suitable for outdoor dining.
Restaurants in the immediate area that are expected to expand their outdoor seating include Next Door Restaurant, Front Street Social Club, Sunset Grill, and Henry’s Irish Tavern. The move will allow them to expand seating into more sidewalk and parking spaces along the side of Front Street, which is the village’s main commercial sidestreet. The village has also applied to the State Liquor Authority to allow the restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages at the temporary spots.
“This is especially important for our restaurants which will be limited in the number of tables they can have inside, however other businesses are welcome to expand outside if they wish,” said Mayor Larry Woolbright. “We also waived minimum parking space regulations for restaurants with their own parking lots so that owners can decide to place tables there if they wish.”
There will also be expanded public parking, with the village having reached agreements with the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council and tentatively with Saratoga County to allow public use of their parking lots during after-business hours. Vehicle traffic on Front Street between Route 50 and Low Street will be limited to one way — westbound — during those days and times.
Communities across the Capital Region are taking or considering similar measures to try to aid struggling restaurants that were forced to close in March to control spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
In Saratoga Springs, some members of the public have called for closing Broadway to let downtown restaurants expand outdoor seating — a move city officials have said is impossible for them, because Broadway is also state Route 50, controlled by the state, and a designated commercial truck route. Broadway restaurants have already started the seasonal outdoor dining that is permitted on their properties up to the start of the sidewalks in front of them.
The Saratoga Springs City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday beginning at 6:55 p.m. on a proposed zoning change that would allow restaurants to have temporary seating on sidewalks and in other outdoor areas off-premises. The Council is expected to act on the change at its meeting immediately following the hearing. The hearing and meeting will be virtual, and people wishing to comment at the public hearing are encouraged to email comments.