West Chester, Radnor Township propose additional street dining to allow for business during pandemic

WEST CHESTER, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Once restaurants are able to reopen in Pennsylvania, we know dining will look a lot different.

To increase capacity and help struggling restaurants, both West Chester and Radnor Township are proposing shutting down major shopping districts for pedestrian traffic only to increase the capacity for outdoor space.

"Emotionally, it will be a big boost to get out and see our friends and family and our neighbors again," says Frank Herron, a restaurateur.

Harron and Butch Eby own Saloon 151 in West Chester. They are excited for the opportunities that a proposed pedestrian-only Gay Street could bring with extended space for outdoor tables.

"With our sidewalk the way it is now, we probably could get six or seven tables. But I think once we get the street, we could get up to 20 or 25 given enough space," said Eby.

Mayor Dianne Herrin says the proposed closures would stretch three to four blocks with cross-through traffic at intersections.

Gay Street won't be closed off 24 hours a day because it's the only access many shops in the corridor have to deliveries.

But Herrin said she recognizes there needs to be a path for recovery for small business owners.

"The choice between staying closed indefinitely, and going back to business as usual is a false choice. We need to look at this as an opportunity and say, 'How can we use this circumstance to improve the status quo?" said Herrin.

The West Chester Borough Council could vote on the temporary measures as early as May 19.

"When Governor Wolf moves us from red to yellow, we're hoping to have a lot of this structure in place so we can move forward," said Herrin.

Radnor Township leadership sees a slower path to reopening restaurants with seating.

"Unfortunately, my expectation is that restaurants will not be able to open to patrons until we are in the green phase as opposed to the yellow phase," said Jack Larkin, Radnor Township Board of Commissioners president.

The Radnor Township Board of Commissioners will vote to give the green light to temporary closures of North Wayne Avenue and Louella Court. As well as re-zone streets in Garrett Hill to allow for outdoor seating.

At The Table BYOB is on board. The owners are desperate to find a solution to serve people safely.

"We have about 26 seats in general. We're going to lose half of them realistically," said owner Alex Hardy.

Votes on the measures could come as early as the next week.

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