Shut The Front Door!

It’s October, not August. Westporters are turning our thermostats up, not down.

But it’s never too early to think about that scourge of summer: Main Street stores that throw their front doors open, wasting enormous air-conditioning energy in the belief that customers will not come in if they have to actually open the door.

Apparently, that’s an issue in New York too.

But America’s largest city has managed to do something about it.

A new law requires most shops and restaurants to keep front doors and windows shut, while air-conditioners and cooling systems are in use. Exceptions include restaurants with outdoor dining, and sidewalk cafes. Fines range from $250 to $1,000.

A typical summer scene downtown.

A typical summer scene downtown. Previous “06880′ posts on the subject have been met with indifference by store owners.

The Department of Consumer Affairs is advertising the new law with stickers saying “Shut the Front Door!” That’s a polite twist on the texting abbreviation “STFU.”

New York’s law is not meant to punish store owners who think they’ll lure customers with a blast of cold air. It’s an acknowledgment of an enormous waste of energy — and the urgency of reducing the city’s carbon footprint.

Westport was a leader in the national movement to ban plastic bags. It’s time for our RTM to take another step in the war against climate change. Let’s follow New York City’s lead, and shut every front door in town.

32 responses to “Shut The Front Door!

  1. Deb Rosenfeld

    In the 90’s, I owned a little gift shop called Madison’s at the Westport train station. Despite having professional lighting in the store, during daylight hours, from the street, it never looked as if the store was open. The little ” Open” sign didn’t seem to help. The only thing that worked to get customers into the store was to keep the front door open at all times except when it was raining or snowing. And to keep full height cardboard cutouts of President Clinton and Fabio right outside the door on the sidewalk next to a basket of rawhide bones for dogs! (We were a dog friendly store and had a mix of eccentric, unusual items.).

    Even in the winter, when the days were shorter and the lights in the store were more visible, I kept the door open most of the time to bring in the customers. My employees and I always marveled at the fact that people will not enter a store if the front door is closed.

    Maybe it will be different for the chain stores on Main Street since they are more “destination” stores.

  2. Deb, that’s interesting. Thanks for sharing. I didn’t realize it made such a difference. I stopped in to Blue Mercury this summer when they had their doors open on a hot day. I wanted to find out why. One of the workers told me it is company policy and there is nothing they can do about it at the local level. They have to do it per company policy. However, if there was a law/ordinance in Westport, they would have to close the door. I understand it probably boosts sales. Perhaps putting up a nice board outside the door encouraging people to walk in might be a good alternative.

  3. Those who post here often lament the changing “character” of Westport. They can’t define that “character” with any specificity so virtually any change could be construed as a threat to the “character” of Westport. Most threats are found in changes to the physical appearance of the structures in town; big houses, big stores. (On the other hand, I do think most residents can agree a Main Street lined with six story buildings, and a Target at one end of the street and a Costco at the other end would be a transformation of the Character of Westport. Although if I were a real estate developer who owned commercial property in Westport, or a representative of that developer I might welcome the change.) However, while running the risk of exhibiting the same lack of specificity shown by those who see a threat with every new house and every tree removal, I will suggest as one who has lived here for some time, the substantive threats to to the town’s character come not from changes in the physical attributes of the town, but in the evident changes in the nature of the citizens.

    From my perspective, in the not too distant past Westport was a town with a slightly bohemian ambiance and the dominant world view was laissez faire. Those attributes have been replaced by the incessant howling of the sanctimonious meddlers who would restrict personal choices to those that conform to their preferences. The plastic bag ordinance Dan alludes to above is an example of the work of the meddlers. The ban produced little or no net benefit as measured by changes in the quality of the environment. (Put “Plastic Versus Paper Bags” in your favorite search engine and then search through the hundreds thousands of hits. The “science” does not reach an unambiguous conclusion.) The ordinance did fall in the PC sweet spot and provided an effective distraction from more important matters.

    Now, Dan would have us emulate the People’s Republic of de Blasio. ( Run by a mayor with a negative approval rating.) Dan would force store owners to act in a manner consistent with his beliefs; he would remove personal choice. Dan wants the RTM to pass an ordinance consistent with his preferences, don’t we all? The same RTM that passed the ordinance banning plastics bags, or maybe not, has been so busy with such distractions that it has not had the wherewithal to deal with more serious matters. Until very recently, the RTM has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars year after year without the benefit of an ordinance requiring competitive bidding for town contracts. How can that be? Are plastic bags a more important issue that the fiduciary responsibility of the RTM?

    Dan’s proposed ordinance would fall also into the PC sweetspot and provide a distraction. The sanctimony would flow in hip deep streams, but the important issues would be shunted aside and personal choices would be limited further.

    • Michael: I agree one could argue about whether the ban on plastic bags makes sense, or whether it is better to use plastic or recycled paper, etc. However, what that ordinance did for me, was make me aware of the recycling issue and completely change my habits. I now have 5 or 6 reusable grocery bags in my car and use them almost every time I go to a grocery store. I remember slightly less frequently when I go to other stores. Essentially, it completely changed my habits. If you multiply the number of people that now don’t need to use any bags when they go to the store, and the children’s habits of those people potentially changing going forward, you must agree that the ordinance was for the better for everyone. Ultimately, some stores will not need to hand out bags at all as we are also getting used to saying — “oh, I don’t even need a bag” reducing their own costs.

      Deep down I do believe, as does Dan, that having the air conditioning blowing into the environment is wasteful, as I often reprimand my children for leaving a door open to the outside. “Don’t you know how much that costs!” Or, when we consciously set our air conditioning to a higher temperature in a zone of the home not being used. Or, I personally choose not to use the heater for our backyard pool as it’s just like heating the environment and is rarely needed. (I know 1st world problem) It is difficult to stomach regulations on such things, but it is the habits that continually need to be changed to make people like us — the heavy consumers of energy with our large homes, cars, pools, etc. to try to reduce our energy consumption in the little ways that we each can for the greater good of all.

      • Brett;

        I too believe having air conditioning blowing out through an open door is wasteful. However, forcing people to close the door is an unnecessary restriction on an individual’s right to choose to keep the door open. I often see behavior with which I disagree, but I don’t expect a law to be passed to force people to behave as I would have them behave.

      • Excellent comments- I agree. I’m sorry MP thinks the RTM “wasted” so much time on this issue. I too now think twice about all of the unnecessary waste in packaging and bags we use everyday. It actually feels strange to shop elsewhere and get a plastic bag (if I’ve forgotten to use the ones stashed away in my trunk!) BTW a closed door has never stopped me from entering a store I want to shop in. I don’t get the open door theory, but anyone who knows me knows I like to shop….

    • Sandy Soennichsen

      Bravo to you Michael for naming the character of the residents now in town. It’s been a detracting element for some years now. Most are just a group of meddlers. And the character of this town will never be defined, it’s different for everyone based on their experiences and memories or fantasies. It is not a “quaint little town” any longer and never will be again, it’s a town looking for it’s place in the overall community, and changes will come whether the meddlers like them or not. And we definitely don’t need a “Stazi” committee or group or town official to tell store owners when their doors can be opened or not. And as to plastic bags, rather than just banning them, why not make the industry come up with recyclable ones; Stop & Shop sells that kind now for $0.10, why not replace the old plastic with those?

      • Sandy; Some of the meddlers have little or no stake in Westport; they don’t pay real estate taxes in Westport, they do not have nor have they ever had children in the Westport school system, some don’t even own homes in Westport. Yet, they feel very comfortable telling those of us who are the real stakeholders, how the town should be run. So, when the meddlers start howling, it is wise to first explore the strength of their connection to Westport.

  4. Bravo! It seems so obvious the waste of energy – when a store’s front door is open and the AC is on. I believe we are an “over-air-conditioned” society. How often must you wear a sweater in August in a supermarket, public bus, or on the NYC subway. When I inquire there seems to be a general response – the AC is either on (full-blast) or off. Don’t public transportation vehicles use thermostats? Imagine the physical benefits of actually opening a store door…

  5. Joyce Barnhart

    I hate the energy waste and if anybody thinks the customer isn’t paying for air-conditioning Main Street, they ought to think again.

  6. Lauren de Bruijn

    After reading a few of these posts all I can say is I’m PROUD to be a “sanctimonious meddler.”

  7. Sandy Soennichsen

    Well Lauren, you must be a nun then if you consider yourself morally superior to other people (that’s the meaning of that big word you used), but either way, you are still a meddler. Are you a resident of

    • Nancy Hunter Wilson

      Unbelievable. Sickening.
      The three blind old mice (Soennichsen, Petrino and his puppet MacDaid) who didn’t grow up in Westport but command attention, who belittle those who have a history in the place by calling them “meddlers”, and so reveal themselves as both blind and deaf. Heartless.

      No, they are not the mice. They comprise the Queen. Ironic.

      • I thought you promised to go away and never come back.

        • Nancy Hunter Wilson

          See? You have just spoken as (one of) the Queen(s):
          Burn the “meddlers”.

          • “Queen(s)” is that a comment on my sexuality?

            Nancy Hunter Wilson | October 5, 2015 at 12:05 pm | Reply
            Of course I understood his irony, which is why I’ll get my Westport “news” from anywhere else than this blog from now on.

            • Nancy Hunter Wilson

              News and Entertainment are two entirely different things.

              p.s. The reference above is to Children’s Literature.

  8. I don’t read in the article that Blue Mercury’s air conditioning was on at the time. It seems like a wonderful thing to have open doors for the unusually warm and beautiful weather the last few days. It didn’t seem warm enough to have the a/c on, but nice to get the doors and windows open one last time. Many shops and restaurants seem to do this and the patrons like it. What am I missing in this “story”? – Chris Woods

    • Re-read the photo caption. Blue Mercury’s doors are open every summer. I did not say this was happening now. It was an illustration about a problem that New York City is doing something about, and which I believe should also be done in Westport.

  9. Sandy Soennichsen

    There are a number of international market places where the doors may be open or shut for a reason, usually if a door is open it means that the owner/manager is willing to haggle over price, and if it’s shut it means that the prices are as marked. This also occurs in climates much warmer than ours and with the stores running their AC, if they have it at all..It’s considered part of the cost of doing business, just as it is here in our quaint little hamlet.

  10. Jerry MacDaid

    Not sure why I’ve been dragged into this however breaking my recent vow to ignore internet trolls, I’ll bite. While I don’t always agree with Mr. Petrino, in this case, directionally I do. If Blue Mercury or anyone else chooses to leave their doors open at whatever cost to them, let them. What harm is it to you? What they choose do with their money is generally none of your or my business just as what any of us do with our money is generally none of anyone else’s business.

    Ha, you say – this is our business because of global warming. OK, I’ll play that game, see the bet and raise you. The ban on open doors is fundamentally wrong headed if we go down the global warming path. What instead we should demand in Westport is an ordinance banning air conditioning (and maybe a requirement for open doors to let in fresh air). AC serves no purpose other than a marginal increase in comfort at the cost of destroying the planet (hyperbole intended). Certainly we all could survive with just our windows open with, maybe, an attic or window fan for those few windless days. Our parents/grandparents (depending on how old you are) certainly survived without AC.

    While we are on our anti-energy wasting high horse, here are some more things that should be banned in Westport:

    1) electric tooth brushes (you can’t move your hand a little?)
    2) electric hair driers
    3) electric or gas clothes driers
    4) more than one lightbulb on per person in a house
    5) cars with more than 4 cylinders
    7) street lights
    8) lit store signs
    9) toasters
    10) washing machines (daily double – both water and energy)

    And that’s just getting started. I mean, what’s convenience or comfort or any other personal choice when the consequence is any increment, however great or small, to global warming?

    Yes, notwithstanding a general desire toward tolerance, lets be intolerant of behaviors we don’t like or that may have an adverse impact on the world (except, of course, when it is inconvenient for us personally). The hypocrisy is overwhelming.

    You know, it wasn’t that many years ago that consensual sexual relations between members of the same sex was against the law (and technically still is in many places). In some people’s view, like before the fall of Rome, a sign of immorality and decadence and a precursor to the ultimate collapse of civilization and revisit of the Dark Ages – if true, arguably something worse than having to relocate New Orleans due to global warming. I would imagine that like me, most Westporter’s would dismiss that and, in any event, conclude that what individuals consensually do with their sex lives is their business and no one else’s. Beyond that, irrespective of personal beliefs, we should be tolerant of other’s choices, beliefs, practices, etc.

    You could certainly argue a lack of moral equivalence and at certain levels, I’d tend to agree. But at its core, the basic philosophy is “don’t trample on individual rights to choose”. When you do, where does it stop? You can’t choose to leave your doors open because it contributes to global warming? You can’t choose to have AC because it contributes to global warming? You can’t live in relative luxury in Westport because the inevitable excesses contribute to global warming?

    Where does tolerance stop? When the majority thinks it should? I doubt any of us really wants to go there.

  11. Joyce Barnhart

    Hey Dan – how many Pandora’s boxes do you have? You must be surprised sometimes at the controversy some of your subjects arouse. When “Westport meets the world”, its articulate citizens can surprise us.

  12. Sandy Soennichsen

    Nancy, you should know your facts before opening mouth and inserting foot. First, I’m male, so unless you are intentionally libeling me, that’s error number one. And two, I am from here, since 1957. Don’t know how long you lived here so I’ll ask, how long? And I know you don’t live here now, so I guess I’m thankful about that.

  13. Lauren de Bruijn

    I wonder if the “climate change deniers” here realize how silly and officious they sound? Obviously, a thoughtful post about chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and global warming would surely fall on deaf ears. And as for you Mr. Soennichsen, “Mr. 1957”, if you represent the “old guard” (as you proudly note) then thank heavens the character of this town is a-changing!

    • Who are the climate change deniers here? Please indicate which posts were those of “climate change deniers”. There are “deniers” here. They are people like you and Dan who would deny people their right to choose based upon your preferences; you are deniers of freedom for individuals. I guess that would make you and your fellow travelers totalitarians.

      • Lauren de Bruijn

        Looks to me that you are a climate change denier in sheep’s clothing. Let me ask you a question. Is it “totalitarian” to disallow residents to keep dangerous dogs or arbitrarily dump in the wetlands? Ordinances exist for a reason – to maintain public safety, health and welfare. Obligating the retail businesses on Main Street in Westport to close their doors during the summer to conserve resources and protect the environment is such a no-brainer, I can’t believe anyone would object to this. The REAL reason the stores keep the doors open (allowing the icy cold air to blast onto the sidewalk) is purely to entice potential shoppers in.