The Rehoboth Beach commissioners have agreed on a plan that would allow for businesses to use the sidewalks for outdoor seating and close down parking spaces along the sidewalk from Second Street to the Bandstand.
In addition, parking spaces in the First Street business district - from Baltimore Avenue to Wilmington Avenue - would be closed to vehicle traffic to allow businesses to use the sidewalks. The area around the Bandstand would remain open to cars but parking would be cut to 30 minutes only. Parking will remain open in the median spaces down Rehoboth Avenue. Handicapped parking on Rehoboth Avenue will also remain open.
City spokeswoman Krys Johnson said that while details are still being worked out, the city figures to lose 200 parking spaces. The commissioners agreed to evaluate the plan every 15 days, with the first evaluation on Tuesday, June 16.
The plan, finalized during a May 26 commissioners’ meeting, is part of an effort by city officials to reopen businesses after Gov. John Carney announced Phase 1 of reopening from lockdowns imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19. Carney’s reopening plan allows for restaurants to operate at 30 percent capacity beginning Monday, June 1.
Rehoboth Beach Main Street solicited input from the business community through a survey for how to move forward with reopening. The city and businesses agreed that the first priority is public health, so the goal was how could the economy get humming again while maintaining social distance protocols. The businesses recommended blocking off parking spaces in the central business district, allowing for the businesses to serve people outdoors, making up for indoor space that cannot be used to comply with capacity requirements, while allowing pedestrians to walk the streets and maintain distance.
Under the city’s plan, retail establishments will be allowed to place items out on the sidewalk no more than 3 feet from the front of the store.
Among the details still to be worked out are how many barricades will be needed to block off the parking spaces and who will pay. Johnson said city officials are also still trying to work out how pedestrians will walk on First Street between Baltimore and Wilmington avenues.
Rehoboth businesses seeking to use the sidewalks must fill out an application, available on the city’s website. City Manager Sharon Lynn said applications can be turned around and approved within 24 to 48 hours. She said if the businesses are serving alcohol, the city will coordinate with the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to move applications through quickly. The commissioners agreed that businesses not located in the central business area near the Boardwalk that seek to serve on the sidewalks, like Dogfish Head, Rigby’s and Houston White, will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Commissioner Susan Gay said, “Our city staff has moved at lightning speed to make an application available to all restaurants to expand with outdoor seating. We had to wait for the governor's regulations and application form before we could proceed. I am pleased that we were able to have a final application in place here just two business days after getting direction from the state. While many cities and towns across the country are talking about ways to provide outside public space for their businesses, we already have a plan in place to make ours a reality.”
During the May 26 meeting, Mike Venanzi, co-owner of Greene Turtle, urged the city to move as quickly as possible. He said the restaurant is down $600,000 in sales since March.
“Do all you can to get this going,” he said. “Get this done.”
The commissioners agreed with his sentiments.
Commissioner Dick Byrne said, “We need to move this forward. Time is of the essence. Let’s support our restaurants and businesses, and try something out.”