Blue Back Square Business Government The Center

On-Street Expanded Outdoor Dining to Return to West Hartford in May

Outdoor dining barriers set up in front of Bricco on LaSalle Road in May 2023. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

On-street outdoor dining corrals will be returning to West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square for the 2024 season.

Outdoor dining corral in front of Arugula on Farmington Avenue in 2023. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

By Ronni Newton

While recent rainy days and chilly temperatures haven’t been conducive to even being outdoors, mild and sunny weather is surely on the horizon – the type of weather that brings throngs of diners to West Hartford Center eager to dine al fresco.

Soon there will be more space to sit outside as restaurants in the West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square will once again be able to expand their outdoor dining capacity in early May. The Town of West Hartford announced Tuesday that concrete barriers will be deployed on LaSalle Road, Farmington Avenue, and Memorial Road on May 9, creating the outdoor dining corrals in advance of Mother’s Day weekend.

Outdoor dining barriers have been set up in in front of Vinted on Memorial Road in 2023. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Work will begin at 7 a.m. that day, and although all roadways will remain open, some temporary lane closures should be expected while barriers are being deployed.

Town officials also noted that for safety purposes Public Works employees have already been trimming some of the trees along sidewalks where expanded outdoor dining is expected to take place. Eligible restaurants are being given the opportunity to apply for permits for outdoor dining in public spaces in accordance with an ordinance adopted last April, which simplified the permitting process in accordance with Connecticut Public Act 22-1.

The location of all of the dining corrals for the 2024 season will not be finalized until the application process is complete.

In past years, as many as 60 restaurants throughout town added as many as 1,000 additional seats due to expanded outdoor dining.

There are currently no plans in place for murals to be painted on the barriers in the Center or Blue Back Square this year. When the barriers that were painted in 2023 were removed in the fall there was no plans to reuse them for this year because officials thought the process of implementing the West Hartford Center Infrastructure Master Plan would be underway with the reconstruction of LaSalle Road and Farmington Avenue, making it impossible to utilize roadway space for dining. Murals generally were painted on multiple barriers, and Public Works Director John Phillips said when they were picked up and placed in storage they were shuffled around, and it would be extremely complicated and virtually impossible to put the barriers back in the same locations, in the correct order.

The town has been working with consultant Stantec on the West Hartford Center Infrastructure Master Plan, and as part of the reconstruction of LaSalle Road and Farmington Avenue, there are plans are to widen sidewalks to accommodate more outdoor dining up against the buildings. Those plans have not yet been finalized and the construction work, expected to begin in 2025, will be done in phases and is expected to be complete in the fall of 2026.

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  • When my family first moved to West Hartford in 2020, we joined tons of other families walking during those pandemic times to eat in town center restaurants, which had expanded to sidewalks instead of folding up and dying. While walking, we explored other businesses and made them part of our routine. Town staff and Mayor Cantor worked hard to make all that happen. They put in the overtime to make sure the restaurants didn’t close up during Covid. It would be a shame to see all that good work rolled back up to make room for a few parking spots in front of Town Center businesses, which is the current plan proposed for LaSalle and Farmington Town Center street rebuilding. Please reach out to Town Council members and Town Manager Rick Ledwith and let them know Town Center is not just for cars, it’s for people. Make the expanded dining space permanent with beautiful new tree wells and wider sidewalks. Buffer outdoor diners from headlights and engine noise with parallel parking. Angled parking takes 18 feet instead of 8 feet. It’s a waste of our towns most valuable public space and it’s bad for business. There are already more than 5,000 parking spaces, thousands underutilized, in Town Center. Restaurants and families walking and bicycling safely together are a much better use of public space in the Center than car storage.

  • Yes I and many others really hope to see the return of parallel parking on Farmington Ave to make room for more outside dining and wider sidewalks. West Hartford Center had parallel parking previous to Covid and parking wasn’t an issue. I do really hope that the town moves forward with more outdoor dining and sidewalk space vs less which is what the current plan has. The extensive outdoor dining has been a huge benefit to the businesses in the Center over the past 3 years and I’d hate to see West Hartford move backwards.

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