By LEAH WILLINGHAM and DAVID BROOKS, Concord Monitor
Visitors driving through Concord could see roads blocked off to traffic as early as next week and filled with masked restaurant patrons sitting at widely spaced tables.
Concord city officials are considering closing off sections of the streets downtown to allow restaurants to expand outdoor dining onto sidewalks and parking spaces, to get them to open and make enough money to stay in business once they do.
It’s a conversation that’s happening in municipalities across the country as restaurants ready to get back to business. In Manchester, for example, Peter Macone, a partner at Republic and Campo Enoteca restaurants in the Queen City, started an online petition to open up sections of Elm Street to pedestrians and dining in late April. The city of Rockland, Maine, approved a proposal Monday night to shut down all vehicle traffic on its Main Street during June, according to the Bangor Daily News.
Starting May 18, restaurants in New Hampshire can serve customers as long as they are seated at least 6 feet apart from other tables, the servers wear masks, and reservations are required to limit crowds.
These rules will greatly reduce how many customers can fit in a restaurant, reducing income.
“No way we’ll even get to 50% capacity. We’ll be lucky to seat 40%,” said Scott Ouellette, owner of Magic Foods Restaurant Group, which owns O Steak and Seafood in Concord, as well as other restaurants around the state. “Is it sustainable at 50%? No.”
Ouellette pointed out that keeping customers 6 feet apart means keeping tables at least 10 feet apart as well as removing at least half the seats from a bar. And there are many uncertainties.
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