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In accordance with recent executive orders issued by Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, Guilford is working to expedite the process by which restaurants can begin offering outdoor seating service, with a handful expected to serve customers in the next week or so.
On May 20, restaurants around the state will be allowed to offer limited outdoor in-person service in accordance with guidelines and rules put in place by local officials. According to Economic Development Coordinator Brian McGlone, Guilford is hoping to have a simple and straightforward application process in place this week to help long-suffering local eateries safely begin opening up again.
“We’re going to try to turn it around as quickly as possible,” McGlone said.
Directions from the state include requirements that individual tables are placed six feet apart, employees wear masks, and that each restaurant implement a strict and consistent sanitizing routine.
The executive order additionally allows restaurants to use spaces that were not originally intended for outdoor seating—spaces like parking lots—as long as those things are approved by the town.
McGlone said that the town Zoning Enforcement Officer Erin Mannix will take point on this application process, and would be able to make any modifications or disallow any proposals by businesses, McGlone said.
The application, which the town posted on its website, requires businesses to provide sketches of outdoor areas with descriptions of how servers and patrons will move, the name of a designated employee to oversee all safety planning, and measures taken to ensure there is no blockage of pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
Ensuring safety, both in terms of preventing the spread of the virus as well as making sure there were no fire hazards or other risks, was the primary goal of the town, McGlone said.
Normally any modification or re-purposing of spaces like this would have to be reviewed by the Planning & Zoning Commission and require detailed plans or expert reviews from people like professional engineers, according to McGlone. These requirements were waived by the executive order.
While the town is still hoping to be as “expeditious” as possible with the approval process, McGlone said the Health Department, fire marshal, and any other relevant town office would review any new arrangements or proposals made by like eateries when appropriate.
McGlone said that with this application only being made available at the end of last week, he thought it was unlikely that most businesses would be approved to open on Wednesday, May 20, though restaurants that had previously offered outdoor seating would have an easier time.
A handful of Guilford restaurants either had posted on their social media pages or told the Courier they had every intention of opening outdoor seating on or around May 20.
Among those are The Place, Quattro’s, Chapter One, and Vietnoms Café. McGlone said he had been in touch with “multiple” restaurants that were “assessing” what an opening would look like.
Chapter One General Manager Alex Ruggiero said that they had started working and preparing plans for an outdoor opening at the beginning of last week and intended to bring back all their staff in order to accommodate what he said would likely be a high demand.
“I’m anticipating us just to be pretty much packed from the moment we open until the moment we close,” he said.
Able to seat somewhere around 30 people after rearranging and distancing their tables, Ruggiero said that Chapter One also hoped to put together a little waiting area for customers, with properly distanced lounge chairs in a nearby parking lot that the restaurant also owns.
Though the restaurant had already finished its certification as required by the state, Ruggiero said he was not aware of any application through the town. He said he would be visiting the Guilford Health Department before the opening.
An employee at Quattro’s said the restaurant planned to put a tent up in the parking lot and was aiming for a May 20 opening for outdoor seating, with the potential to add more tents and possibly a small eating area out front if demand were high enough.
Quattro’s would not be taking reservations, though, according to the employee.
Huoi Lam, owner of Vietnoms, said she “ideally” would like to be able to offer four tables on the restaurant’s outdoor patio, also with the potential to expand to the parking lot if approved by the town.
Lam said she had scheduled a visit by Mannix in order to inspect the outdoor area before May 20.