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March 4, 2021

West Hartford seeks to extend, make permanent popular outdoor dining program

Contributed Patrons eating outside Savoy restaurant in West Hartford Center.

West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor said Thursday that she is proposing an ordinance that would extend the town’s highly successful outdoor dining and retail program through the end of 2021. 
Using his emergency powers, Gov. Ned Lamont temporarily modified certain state and local laws in order to expand outdoor dining and retail during the pandemic. Under the emergency rules, West Hartford allowed restaurants and retailers to expand into sidewalks and roadways, including popular new outdoor eating areas in LaSalle Road and Farmington Avenue. 

However, the emergency declaration related to outdoor dining expires April 20, and the town is urging Lamont and state lawmakers to extend it.
“Our restaurants and retailers have been loud and clear – they need predictability in order to invest in equipment and properly plan for the upcoming outdoor season,” said Town Manager Matt Hart. “We have heard their concerns, and the proposed ordinance should give businesses confidence that West Hartford’s outdoor dining and retail program will continue in much the same manner for 2021.”
Cantor’s proposed ordinance will be introduced at the regular town council meeting on March 9, when it will be referred to the planning and zoning commission and set for a public hearing. Hart said it’s important to begin the local legislative process now in case the state fails to act before the current emergency rules expire.
Cantor said she is interested in making some of the changes permanent, but more time is necessary to study the issue, including roadway and sidewalk design, infrastructure needs, permit fees, and accessibility issues.  Under the proposed ordinance, the town manager would be required to recommend permanent changes to the town council by Oct. 1.
“A silver lining of the pandemic is that it allowed us to experiment with new outdoor dining and entertainment options, and I have heard from so many residents about how much they enjoyed the new outdoor experience,” Cantor said. “The proposed ordinance gives local businesses the stability they need, while giving us time to evaluate and implement exciting long term changes for the future.”

Many restaurateurs in West Hartford, particularly those located in the center of town, praised last summer’s outdoor dining program with not only keeping them afloat during the pandemic, but also helping some record decent years. 

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