When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, Cleveland’s Sweet Moses ice cream parlor added three street picnic tables, protected from traffic on Detroit Avenue by a wall of Jersey barriers.
“That may not sound like a lot, but it triples our seating compared to the sidewalk,” said owner Jeff Moreau. “It was really well received.”
The additional tables were possible as part of a special city permit that allowed restaurants to use street sections for socially distant outdoor seating.
This week, Cleveland City Council is voting to extend the program to summer, moving the expiration date from June 1st to November 1st. This is a sign that the pandemic is expected to continue to northeast Ohio through 2021. Station 3 City Councilor Kerry McCormack hopes that expanded outdoor dining will outlast the coronavirus.
“There are a lot of people talking about where in town we can do this permanently, not just temporarily,” McCormack said. “I think this is another topic that we have to deal with.”
For example, Market Avenue in Ohio City – home of the Great Lakes Brewing Company – should be permanently closed to cars, he said. That would turn the street into a pedestrianized street with plenty of room for restaurant customers, he said.
“Does a restaurant want to take away a parking space in front of their place even after COVID in order to have a more active street front for eating or in some other way?” McCormack said. “I think we need to look at all of these options to support our local small business and restaurants.”
Sweet Moses did not renew his permission to eat outdoors during the fall and winter, but Moreau said he would consider applying again this year. As in many restaurants, Sweet Moses reduced the indoor seating to allow for more social distance in the store. And revenue took a hit in 2020, Moreau said.
But the sight of customers eating ice cream outside sent a message that Sweet Moses was still open for business, he said.
The only problem with the Jersey barriers, according to Moreau, is that they are not seen much. He wants the city to give business owners scope to upgrade them.
“Maybe you’re doing this program so we can either decorate them or add some fixtures or do some things to create better spaces for our customers,” he said, “so they don’t feel like they are behind the barriers of Jersey that they eat the street. “