WESTPORT — The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved helping local businesses through the coronavirus crisis by extending Church Lane’s closure through Oct. 31.
Blocking off the road to vehicle traffic was originally proposed in August has worked to drive business to restaurants and merchants, according to Randy Herbertson, president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association.
“I will tell you that all three restaurants involved have been greatly appreciative because, as you’ve seen down there, the (pedestrian) traffic is very, very steady,” Herbertson said at a BOS meeting Wednesday. “The stores have also seen it.”
Accommodations have been made to allow for deliveries, he said, with extra space for deliveries provided at the front of Church Lane off Post Road for businesses. Street lights have also been added to enhance the scenery, he said.
“For the time being, even with a little bit more cooler weather, everything has been quite successful,” Herbertson said.
Selectwoman Melissa Kane said she was happy for the business the closure has brought to retailers and restaurants on the street. She questioned how Pink Sumo — a restaurant on Church Lane that chose not to do outdoor service — was handling the arrangement.
“It would seem like it would be great for them to be outside as well if possible,” she said.
Herbertson said it was late in the season for the restaurant to make a shift, but there are plans to return to the BOS next year for a similar proposal.
“We feel pretty likely that they’ll get involved next year and they regret not doing it this year,” Herbertson said. “Right now, they are happy with their current delivery situation.”
First Selectman Jim Marpe said he’s heard positive feedback from residents of the closure, but asked if there were expectations for it to continue as it continued to get colder.
“When it’s January and it’s sleeting outside, heaters not withstanding, maybe it’s not so attractive to eat outdoors,” he said.
Herbertson said they were looking at November and potentially December to continue outdoor dining, if accommodations could be made. He said at least two of the restaurants on the street had discussed putting up tents in conversations with the fire marshal to understand safety guidelines.
“It’s possible next month we’ll come back and be able to say they’ve worked out arrangements to extend it further,” Herbertson said. “And they’d like to, for sure.”