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Proposal To Continue Outdoor Dining On The Table For Cleveland City Council

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, Cleveland ice cream shop Sweet Moses added three picnic tables in the street outside, protected from Detroit Avenue traffic by a wall of Jersey barriers.

“Which may not sound like a lot, but that pretty much triples what our seating was, versus the sidewalk,” owner Jeff Moreau said. “It was really well received.”

The additional tables were possible under a special city permit allowing restaurants to claim stretches of street for outdoor, socially distant seating.

This week, Cleveland City Council votes on extending the life of the program through this summer, moving the expiration date from June 1 to Nov. 1. It’s one sign that the pandemic is expected to continue its hold on Northeast Ohio deeper into 2021. But Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack hopes expanded outdoor dining will outlast the coronavirus.

“There’s a lot of folks talking about where in the city that we could make this permanent, not just temporary,” McCormack said. “So I think that’s another topic that we need to dive into.”

For instance, Ohio City’s Market Avenue – home to Great Lakes Brewing Company – should be closed to cars for good, he said. That would turn the street into a pedestrian thoroughfare with plenty of space to seat restaurant customers, he said.

“Does a restaurant want to take away a parking spot in front of their place, even after COVID, to have more active street frontage for dining or otherwise?” McCormack said. “I think we’ve got to look at all those options to support our local small business and restaurants.”

Sweet Moses did not renew its outdoor dining permit in the fall and winter, but Moreau said he would consider reapplying this year. Like many restaurants, Sweet Moses scaled back indoor seating to allow for more social distancing inside the store. And revenue took a hit in 2020, Moreau said.

But the sight of customers eating ice cream outside sent a message that Sweet Moses was still open for business, he said.

The only problem with the Jersey barriers, according to Moreau: They’re not much to look at. He’d like the city to give business owners leeway to spruce them up.

“Maybe make this program so we could either decorate them, or add some fixtures, or do some things to create better spaces for our customers,” he said, “so they don’t feel like they’re just behind Jersey barriers eating in the street.”

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