Jersey barriers installed to promote social distancing throughout the commercial district of Rehoboth Beach have been removed.
The city installed the barriers in parking spots in late May to allow for restaurants to have outdoor dining on city streets, while also allowing pedestrians room to social distance. The barriers were removed before sunrise Nov. 2.
City Manager Sharon Lynn recommended removal of the barriers during a meeting in September. She said there were two reasons – they weren’t needed anymore because there aren’t as many people in town, and the price to rent the barriers jumped from $15 to $100 per barrier at the end of October. The city began with 300 barriers, but within weeks that number dropped to a little more than 100 because only a handful of restaurants needed them, and retail businesses complained the barriers were pushing customers away.
The barriers may be gone, but restaurants are still allowed to offer outdoor dining along the facade of their building. Rehoboth Beach commissioners formalized the rules for outdoor dining on city property during a meeting Oct. 6. Restaurants have been given permission from the state to expand their footprint through the end of March 2021.
After spending multiple meetings and hours discussing the possibility of street cafes in city parking spots, it doesn’t appear those dining locations are coming anytime soon.
During the weekly COVID-19 meeting Oct. 27, Rehoboth Beach Code Enforcement Officer Dennis Jeney said in the past week, the office had contacted a number of restaurants, and there wasn’t much interest in street cafes. He said restaurants were comfortable with the dining space against the facade through the winter because there were too many unknowns.
Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce President Carol Everhart confirmed Jeney’s report.
Everhart said the chamber spoke with representatives from 46 of the 72 sit-down eateries in Rehoboth. She said 29 of the restaurants showed some interest, but they were content with the city allowing for seating up against the building.
There was no pushback on just the facade seating, said Everhart. A lot of it is going to be weather dependent, she said.
Mayor Stan Mills said he wasn’t discouraged by the amount of time spent on the subject. There may have been some time lost, but the city is way ahead of the game, he said.
As an alternative to street cafes, Mills recommended doing the same thing the city did this summer – turn parking spaces into pedestrian walkways so restaurants can use the sidewalk. Commissioners generally agreed with Mills’ suggestion.
The commissioners will not hold their weekly COVID-19 meeting Tuesday, Nov. 3, because of Election Day. They plan on resuming the meetings Tuesday, Nov. 10.