MATTHEWS – Town leaders are considering measures that could help downtown restaurants struggling with North Carolina’s social distancing requirements.
Planning Director Jay Camp introduced some ideas to town commissioners during the board’s June 1 meeting. He is expected to return before them June 8 with a general framework and a resolution to vote on.
“Cities across the country are making – well for government – very very fast changes to policies and programs to create a relaxation of requirements for outdoor dining regulations,” Camp said.
He mentioned how Belmont recently closed its main street on Friday and Saturday evenings to help downtown restaurants, while Charlotte is considering relaxing parking regulations on private property.
Matthews could open up temporary seating for dining in public rights of way. The town could reduce minimum parking requirements so businesses can use lots for dining spaces.
He credited planning department staffer Shana Robertson for bringing up the idea of using the vacant lot on Matthews Station Street for a chair and table installation that would allow people to take to-go orders.
Camp showed a map of seven restaurants in downtown Matthews that could potentially benefit from such a program. He specifically mentioned The Portrait Gallery Restaurant & Bar and Royal Cafe & Creperie.
Camp said he would strongly lean on the town engineer for input on how to make these types of spaces safe.
Commissioners Jeff Miller, Ken McCool and Larry Whitley said they were in favor of the idea. Mayor John Higdon liked it, too.
“I absolutely support this because I think it could help our business owners recover some funding,” Higdon said.
Residents would also love the opportunity to go out and eat in a safe environment, he added.
Commissioners will likely have some discussion about how the barricades will look, how much it’s going to cost and whether alcohol can be consumed in the right of way.