By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
As Gov. Ned Lamont loosens restrictions on restaurants to allow outdoor dining, the city is encouraging West Haven restaurant owners to immediately start using outdoor dining to support their businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and Planning and Development Commissioner Fred A. Messore announced.
Rossi said the city is also making it easier for restaurateurs to gain approval of their proposed outdoor dining plans, for up to four tables and 16 seats, by simplifying the application process and waiving the permit fees until Sept. 1.
On May 11, the City Council approved a communication by Rossi to suspend the outdoor dining permit fees in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions. The mayor worked on the proposal with council Finance Committee Chairwoman Bridgette J. Hoskie, D-1.
“I want to do everything I can to help our restaurants and all of our businesses in these challenging times,” said Rossi, who thanked council members for supporting the initiative.
The city has been at the forefront of promoting outdoor dining since August 2019, when the Planning and Zoning Commission adopted a regulation to guide “Outdoor Dining” at West Haven restaurants.
To apply for an outdoor dining permit, restaurant owners can call the Department of Planning and Development at (203) 937-3580 or contact Zoning Enforcement Officer Cathy Conniff at firstname.lastname@example.org. Instructions for completing an application are available at http://cityofwesthaven.com/DocumentCenter/View/2410/Temporary-Permit-Application-PDF.
According to Assistant City Planner David W. Killeen, the application process requires restaurant owners to submit an application form with a simple drawing of the outdoor dining layout drawn to scale. The layout must show the outdoor dining location and the number of movable chairs and tables planned for use. It also must show at least 5 feet of unobstructed and continuous sidewalk for pedestrians to walk around the area and the tables set up at least 6 feet apart for social distancing.
Killeen said that if a restaurant needs to use a public sidewalk, the owner must provide the city with a certificate of insurance for general liability in the amount not less than $2 million to comply with Section 139-12 of the West Haven Code. In addition, restaurants must comply with Section 20.10 of the West Haven Zoning Regulations, he said.
Republican Councilman-at-Large Barry L. Cohen was supportive of Hoskie’s proposal, but offered his own amendment helping restaurant owners strapped for cash at this time. The amendment waived the $50 permit fee for those making applications.
“I was pleased that the City Council supported my amendment to the motion that waives the $50 permit fee restaurants pay for outdoor dining through Sept. 1,” Cohen said. “This allows our local, small business owners the flexibility to consider outdoor dining permits through July 4, and just prior to Labor Day Weekend without being charged the fee. “It may be only $50, but it’s $50 in our local restaurant owners’ pockets.”
“I thank Bridgette Hoskie for her fine work with the mayor on the motion.”
Although an extension of the original 30-day fee waiver could have been considered by the Council at a later date, Cohen’s amendment virtually eliminated the need to consider any extension.
Cohen who recently worked across the aisle with Rep. Dorinda Borer in obtaining $50,000 from Yale University to purchase Chromebooks for West Haven students added, “I commend Councilwoman’s Hoskie’s thoughtful work with the mayor on this fee waiver. It may be a small, but nonetheless, important gesture to let West Haven small businesses know that we care, hear and understand your struggles during these challenging times.”
(Ed. Note: Editor Bill Riccio, Jr. added to this story.)