The West Hartford Department of Public Works deployed concrete and plastic barriers Monday as expanded outdoor dining returns.
By Ronni Newton
The first phase of this season’s expanded outdoor dining began Monday as crews from Public Works deployed concrete and plastic barriers to erect corrals on LaSalle Road, Farmington Avenue, and South Main Street in West Hartford Center as well as on Memorial Road in Blue Back Square.
Many restaurants are not open on Mondays, but several had already started setting up tables and chairs in the corrals and a few already had patrons dining there, taking advantage of sunny and mild weather.
On April 11, the Town Council adopted an updated outdoor dining ordinance, which brings West Hartford into compliance with state regulations that grew out of pandemic emergency orders and streamlining the process for restaurants to expand their capacity. While the dining corrals are located only in the Center – where there is public space for the expansion – the outdoor dining ordinance applies to restaurants anywhere in town.
Permits must still be obtained, but the measure reduces the red tape that restaurants previously faced to obtain permits to use not just patios, but also parking lots, sidewalks, and other public rights of way – for additional seating. In West Hartford alone, more than 60 restaurants had outdoor dining last year.
Although LaSalle Road recently reverted to two-way traffic, that has not prevented the deployment of barriers along the roadway.
The most notable difference in the outdoor dining situation this season is the absence of barriers on the western edge of the Center in front of Zohara. Along Farmington Avenue, only Treva, Max’s Oyster Bar, and Arugula will have corral seating this season.
Town Engineer Greg Sommer initially said the dining corrals would utilize a total of 48 parking spaces this year: 32 spaces on LaSalle Road, 12 on Farmington Avenue, and four on Memorial Road. Several additional spaces on South Main Street, in front of Blue Elephant Trail, are also blocked off for expanded outdoor dining use.
The barriers are bare right now, but the town will once again be working with the West Hartford Art League for the creation of ArtBarrier murals. Painting of the murals is scheduled for the morning of Saturday, May 20. This form of public art has been very well-received by the community and allows the barriers to not just provide safety for patrons, but also adds beauty to the streetscape.
This is likely the last year that expanded outdoor dining will have its current form. Stantec, the consultant working with the town on the West Hartford Center Infrastructure Master Plan, is preparing to present their final report and designs for both LaSalle Road and Farmington Avenue. According to Town Manager Rick Ledwith, the construction work will likely take place during 2024.
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