Restaurant Reopenings: What’s On The Menu For Westport?

This Wednesday — May 20 — marks the day Connecticut restaurants can reopen for more than curbside takeout and delivery .

There are restrictions: For example, outdoor dining only is permitted; there is no bar service. Tables must be 6 feet apart.

That should be good news for owners, employees and diners. The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus.

Le Penguin’s mascots are making it through the pandemic. Like restaurant owners all over town, their owners are figuring out how to adapt to new state reopening regulations. (Photo/Marcy Sansolo)

But don’t expect a rush of al fresco options 2 days from now. Several steps — beyond simply configuring space (and ordering single-use menus) — must be taken first.

Westport Planning & Zoning chair Danielle Dobin notes that Governor Lamont has temporarily suspended municipal laws regulating outdoor dining. So instead of the traditional permitting process, restaurateurs here must submit a simple application to P&Z director Mary Young.

Westport Police and Fire Department officials, along with the Westport Weston Health District, must sign off on each application. Restaurants that already have outdoor dining must apply too, ensuring they comply with revised health regulations.

Romanacci already has an outdoor dining permit. Under new regulations, tables — shown here last year — now must be 6 feet apart. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Lamont’s executive order “provides tremendous flexibility to restaurants looking to create an outdoor dining space,” Dobin says.

“Normal requirements for parking and setbacks have been waived. Restaurants can even explore using neighboring properties or parking lots, so long as the owners of those properties approve of the plan.

“Residents should expect restaurants all over the state to create larger outdoor dining areas than in the past. Our outdoor restaurant spaces will often look and feel a bit different.”

Sherwood Diner prepares for outdoor dining. (Photo/Dan Woog)

You won’t hear a lot of live music, however. Previous noise regulations remain in effect.

Dobin says that the board of selectmen are also looking at “the creative use of certain town roads to facilitate outdoor dining and outdoor shopping.”

Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, is the restaurant liaison for the ReOpen Westport Advisory Team. On Friday he led a Zoom call, with over 3 dozen restaurant owners.

Restaurant owners and town officials joined a conference call on Friday.

“Our restaurant owners are committed to providing a safe environment for their guests,” Dobin says.

“There is no rush to reopen. Many owners will take their time. I hope that all of our residents are supportive and patient with our fabulous Westport restaurants, as they find their way in this new world.”

“This is not a race,” Mandell agrees. “Slow and steady will win this one. The goal of ensuring health and safety for customers, staff and owners will ultimately lead to everyone’s success.”

As restaurants announce openings, lists compiled by the Chamber of Commerce and OneWestport will be updated regularly.

The owners of Harvest, Tarantino and Romanacci met on Friday, to discuss the best use of Railroad Place.

7 responses to “Restaurant Reopenings: What’s On The Menu For Westport?

  1. Matthew Mandell

    Let me add one thing. ALL RESTAURANTS need to get an approval for outdoor dining, even if they had outdoor dining before. They must meet the State’s guidelines. This ensures better safety and an orderly and systematic opening. Please email Mary Young, Director of Planning & Zoning at maryyoung@westportct.gov this will get the ball rolling. The Town is committed to expedite the process, but this process MUST be followed.

    If you are a restaurant and were not on the zoom meeting, email me matthew@westportwestonchamber.com we are holding another one Thursday. All information so far on opening, State Rules, Executive Order and Self Certification, can also be found at http://www.westportwestonchamber.com/reopenrestaurants

    The goal is to do this right.

    • Thanks, Matthew. I already said that all restaurants — even those with pre-existing outdoor seating — need approval. It’s in the sentence above the Romanacci photo.

    • John F. Suggs

      Matt, Closing some of the town streets to allow for outdoor dining is a good idea. I support it. But I would remind you of the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in that the town’s current rules allow for restaurants with outdoor dining to also have live music until 1:00 am.

      Indeed, the very Director of the Planning Department who you encourage 06880 readers to contact in support of outdoor dining was fully in support of just this outcome only a few months ago when the latest iteration at the old 323 Restaurant across from “Coffee An” sought to expand to outdoor patio sitting. Live music until 1:00 am. The residents who live in that neighborhood were rightfully upset at that possibility AND the disconcerting fact that the Planning Department staff saw no problems with it.

      Please remember the neighbors Matt and seek to ensure that the Chamber continues to be “good neighbors” by taking the lead in making sure that this type of a live music scenario is not rushed headlong into and repeated now under the current situation.

  2. There are no “noise regulations” which prevent live entertainment in outdoor eating areas in the Town of Westport. In fact, with a special permit, you can blast away at concert levels until 1:00 in the morning. Is it a clear violation of our nuisance regulation? Yes. Does it matter? That depends on who you are; if you’re some weird little dude with a boombox and a bad habit in Old Hill, you’re gonna get a letter. If you’re the Levitt or Rothbard or the wine bar on Main Street that can be heard in Monroe, three words:
    Party on, Wayne!

  3. We’ve been buying takeout each week from a different restaurant and leaving a substantial tip. We are eager to visit our local restaurants and pretend that life is back to normal.

  4. Joan Tricarico

    Can they use Plexiglass (as done in banks, pharmacies,etc.) between outdoor tables and then place them 2 or 3 feet apart?

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