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Montague businesses seek to move outdoors upon reopening

  • Owners of The Rendezvous restaurant on Third Street in Turners Falls spoke with the Selectboard this week about possibly putting tables in the parking lot to allow customers to better practice social distancing once the business reopens. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 5/21/2020 1:45:24 PM
Modified: 5/21/2020 1:45:14 PM

MONTAGUE — Although it will be at least another three weeks before restaurants and other retail shops can reopen, some business owners are considering how to make use of space outside to allow customers to better practice social distancing.

Town Administrator Steve Ellis said several Montague businesses have already inquired at Town Hall about what they may and may not be allowed to do, taking the cue from other states that reopened earlier than Massachusetts where outdoor seating areas and sidewalk sale-style displays have become the norm.

For example, owners of The Rendezvous restaurant on Third Street spoke with the Selectboard this week about the feasibility of putting tables in the parking lot.

“We need to get the town operating again in a safe and effective manner,” said Rendezvous co-owner Mark Wisnewksi. “We’re hoping to be a catalyst.”

Town officials have been eager to support businesses’ efforts, but they have also acknowledged there will be issues to work through in developing the town’s policies, particularly involving insurance and public safety. The more complex policies will focus on equity and accessibility, as outdoor space isn’t readily available everywhere.

“If every business were located next to a municipal lot, that would be easy,” Ellis noted.

The Selectboard did not make a decision about The Rendezvous’ request this week, but scheduled another meeting for Tuesday at 7 p.m. to have a deeper conversation about the issue, and to start working toward establishing policies. Ellis said the town hopes to start working with businesses within the next few weeks.

In the meantime, the Planning and Conservation Department sent a survey to local business owners on Wednesday, seeking information on when and how businesses expect to reopen, what their individual challenges are and whether town policies on outdoor operations would be helpful. Town Cultural Coordinator Suzanne LoManto said information from the surveys will inform the meeting on Tuesday.

“I’m thinking we can maybe make the best of a difficult situation,” said Selectboard Chair Rich Kuklewicz. “I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing a couple of pinball machines outside.”

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.




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