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May 13, 2020

CT makes it easier for restaurants, retail stores to sell outdoors

Photo | FIRST & LAST TAVERN Outdoor seating at the former First & Last Tavern in downtown Middletown.

Gov. Ned Lamont has removed red tape for restaurateurs and retailers looking to pivot to expanded outdoor sales as the state’s economy gradually reopens May 20 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor signed an executive order Tuesday -- the 40th aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 -- that empowers towns and cities to expedite zoning changes or ordinances for small businesses seeking to bring their operations outdoors. 

Meantime, many municipalities, including Hartford, are considering changes to their zoning regulations to lift limits on the size of outdoor seating areas. 

Tuesday’s seven-page order comes days after restaurants and other industries received new guidelines for how they can reopen starting May 20.

In particular, the order allows municipalities to fast-track changes for restaurateurs to either create or expand outdoor dining areas. It also allows restaurants or other liquor permit holders to serve alcohol without applying for a separate patio or extension of use permit.

Golf country clubs and for- and not-for-profit clubs are also permitted under the executive order to serve food and alcohol to members and their families.

On the retail side, the order speeds up the municipal approval process for businesses such as retail stores applying to sell goods on the sidewalk or other outdoor shared spaces. One caveat is that a 6-foot clearance for social distancing purposes must be provided for pedestrian passage.

The order also lifts restrictions on minimum parking requirements and suspends any bans on outdoor activities from occurring in parking lots.

The governor’s office said that all phase one reopening activity is subject to rules issued by the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

Lamont in recent days released a report citing specific rules that eligible businesses must follow in order to reopen starting May 20.
The first phase of Lamont’s plan to reopen the economy will allow the following industries to begin to reopen: restaurants; offices; hair salons and barbershops; retail stores; and outdoor museums and zoos.

Here are the regulations for various industries:

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