Similar to this past summer, if pandemic-related dining regulations continue into April 2021, Rehoboth Beach officials plan on bringing back jersey barriers to block off commercial district parking spots so restaurants can have sidewalk dining, while pedestrians use the parking spots as a sidewalk.
The difference will be that restaurants have to pay for the barriers next year. City commissioners voted in favor of the change during Rehoboth’s weekly COVID meeting Nov. 17.
The city installed the barriers in early May to accommodate restaurants and COVID-related social distancing. The barricades were removed Nov. 2; restaurants are still allowed to offer outdoor dining along the facade of their building.
The majority of commissioner discussion occurred during the COVID meeting Nov. 10. During that meeting, Commissioner Patrick Gossett introduced the rules restaurants would have to follow to be permitted to offer sidewalk dining past March 31, 2021 - the date set by Gov. John Carney giving the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner the power to approve expanded outdoor dining for restaurants across the state.
Commissioners all agreed it was fair that restaurants participate in some of the cost sharing. Mayor Stan Mills said the city will provide all the labor costs of installing and removing the barriers. He said the city isn’t going to be charging the restaurants for the lost parking revenue. During a meeting Oct. 20, the city estimated each parking spot has the potential to bring in more than $4,000 a year in revenue.
In addition to charging restaurants for the barriers, the proposed rules say restaurants must submit outdoor dining applications by Feb. 15. Mills said this was so city staff had time to evaluate each application and prepare for how many barriers would be needed. He said new restaurants or restaurants that didn’t turn their application in on time wouldn’t be denied the outdoor dining opportunity, but they would have to wait until another shipment of barriers was necessary because he didn’t want to see barriers being delivered every few days.
Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce President Carol Everhart said the restaurant people she had spoken to were fine with the city passing along the cost of installing the barriers. They were expecting it, she said.
In addition to dining rules, Commissioner Richard Byrne said during both COVID meetings he would like to see the city discuss other incentives, such as the Meterless Monday program the commissioners approved for the last two months of the parking meter season this past summer.
Mills said that was something that could be discussed.
There was no COVID meeting Nov. 24; the meetings will resume Tuesday, Dec. 1. Mills said he anticipates getting into post-pandemic outdoor dining beginning with that meeting.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct amount of money each parking space brings in each year.