GOSHEN — With indoor seating now limited due to COVID-19-related social distancing requirements, several downtown businesses were granted approval Monday by the Goshen Board of Public Works and Safety to temporarily extend their seating outdoors.
According to Gina Leichty of the downtown advocacy group Downtown Goshen Inc., the hope with the outdoor seating request is that the additional outdoor seating space will allow the businesses to serve more customers, and thus improve their bottom line during these financially trying times, while also allowing the businesses to operate as safely as possible during the pandemic.
As approved, downtown businesses that plan to offer or expand their outdoor seating include: Elephant Bar, 227 S. Main St.; Constant Spring, 219 S. Main St.; The Nut Shoppe, 204 S. Main St.; The Electric Brew, 118 E. Washington St.; Venturi Pizzeria, 123 E. Lincoln Ave.; Common Spirits, 111 E. Lincoln Ave.; Shirley’s Gourmet Popcorn, 106 N. Main St.; Olympia Candy Kitchen, 136 N. Main St.; and Blank Space, 109 E. Lincoln Ave.
According to Leichty, most of the outdoor seating will be located either in front of the businesses, or in nearby alleys, and will be easily movable should the need arise.
“Any tables, chairs, fencing would all be temporary in nature. There is no drilling allowed into the concrete,” Leichty added of the plan. “And just as a note, all of the restaurant businesses that would be selling alcoholic beverages also have to go through the review process with the (Alcohol and Tobacco Commission), and they have to submit the same floor plans to the ATC and ask for a modification of their space as well.”
Leichty noted the hope is to offer the expanded outdoor seating through at least the end of the summer, after which it can be evaluated to determine what issues, if any, resulted from allowing the outdoor seating.
“A number of the businesses, they’re making investments in tables and chairs and things. So, to give them at least the summer to try this out and make sure that it works feels like that would be the most fair thing to do, since they’re making those investments,” Leichty told the board. “But it would be a temporary thing. And then, assuming that all goes well, then we would consider coming before the board in future years to see if this is something we could continue to do to make available for Goshen.”
While supportive of the overall plan, Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman, who also holds a seat on the board, noted he wants downtown businesses to be aware that a “Yes” vote for the request now does not necessarily mean the additional outdoor seating will be allowed in the future.
“I understand they need to buy tables. But whatever they buy this year, I want to be clear, some of this we’re doing because of COVID-19, and trying to be as helpful as possible,” Stutsman said. “I’d hate to see them buy a whole bunch expecting that it’s going to be an automatic ‘Yes’ next year, because we’re going to need to see what issues this created and adjust. But I am very supportive of this.”
In the end, the board’s members agreed, and the outdoor seating request was approved, though with the added condition that the approval be contingent on a final sign-off by the Goshen Engineering Department.
In other business, board members:
• Approved the promotion of Jared A. Ellison from the rank of patrol officer to the rank of sergeant with the Goshen Police Department.
• Accepted bids for the upcoming North Main Street Improvements project. Submitting bids were HRP Construction with a bid of $823,950; Niblock Excavating with a bid of $713,593; and Selge Construction with a bid of $792,337. The bids will now be forwarded to the city’s legal department for review and a contract recommendation.