Here’s how New Canaan embraces outdoor dining

New Canada – As the weather warms, New Canaan is leaning towards its alfresco dining options, seeking to widen the sidewalk in some areas of Elm Street and popping up for new, more aesthetically pleasing curbs to cordon off its al fresco dining spots.

At a meeting of the Board of Selectors on May 2, the Board voted to approve a request for the Department of Public Works to spend $20,985.35 to purchase 16 concrete barriers to mark dining areas in front of several Elm Street restaurants.

Mann has already obtained permission from the Police Commission to modify some of the street parking to accommodate outdoor dining for the season.

Concrete barriers will replace the white plastic water-filled barriers now found outside restaurants. Director of Public Works Tiger Man said the new bollards come “in response to complaints that previous bollards were a bit unsightly for downtown.”
Barriers will be out of Patisserie Salzburg, Rosie, Chef Luis and Solé. Mann said it will take six to eight weeks before they arrive
In addition to going for more stable, attractive barriers, Mann said he’s looking to eventually “push the curb” in front of those restaurants and take over the parking lane to make more room for diners, but that could take some time.
Outdoor dining rose in popularity in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when restaurants in New Canaan and elsewhere sought to add outdoor options to stay afloat with customer safety in mind.
But outdoor dining has become popular enough that many communities are looking to make it a regular offering.
“This is something that has really expanded,” said Laura Budd, executive director of the new Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
She said the white plastic barriers were always intended to be a temporary measure.
“I think the city understands that it would like a permanent structure,” Budd said, but added that the concrete barriers would not be permanent. These barriers can be (removed) in November so that we can regain some parking spaces.”

Budd said she knows there are concerns from retailers about the impact of outdoor dining on shoppers during the warm weather months.
“Not everyone likes to eat outdoors in front of restaurants because it removes some of the street-level parking,” she said.
However, a representative of at least one Elm Street restaurant said he was pleased to see the increased attention being paid to al fresco dining.
“I think it’s a welcome improvement in the downtown area,” said Adam Zakka, managing partner at Z Hospitality Group, which owns Sully. “It would have been wise to test outdoor dining with a smaller initial investment, but as we’ve seen all over Fairfield County, locals are overwhelmingly supportive of al fresco dining options.”

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