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Wheeling officials looking at creating temporary outdoor space for restaurants

WHEELING, W.Va. — Mayor Glenn Elliott expects the demand to be high when restaurants reopen to outdoor dining only around the state on Monday. With the limited number of restaurants in Wheeling with outdoor dining, he shares concerns the ones that do offer it will face overcrowding and violate the social distancing practices put into place by COVID-19.

Elliott tells MetroNews that is part of the reason why the City of Wheeling has announced a plan for temporary outdoor dining for city restaurants that currently do not offer those services.

Wheeling officials are considering temporary outdoor dining arrangements utilizing a combination of sidewalks and on-street parking adjacent to applicable restaurants. In addition, potential street closures in Centre Market to further facilitate outdoor dining could also be considered.

Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott

“Folks are now five or six weeks into eating inside every night, they are ready to go and eat out,” Elliott said. “What we don’t want to see is the few restaurants who currently have outdoor seating to be overwhelmed with people waiting in line next to each other when we are all supposed to be social distancing.”

In addition to the methodology set down by Gov. Jim Justice this week, City Manager Robert Herron explained that some guidelines will need to be followed for temporary outdoor dining including maintaining pedestrian access across the front of a building. Herron said in a release that this could eliminate parking directly adjacent to the restaurant.

The guidelines for physical distancing at outdoor dining locations by Justice included limiting dining party size to no more than six, encouraging social distancing of those not residing together while present on such entity’s leased or owned property, and do not allow patrons to congregate in waiting areas.

For distancing, the state’s orders included updating plans for outdoor dining areas, redesigning seating arrangements to ensure at least six feet of separation from seating to seating.

Elliott said the city is closely working with the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration (ABCA) on rules that would apply, in which the city cannot change.

The reopening framework released Tuesday indicated officials with the ABCA had been developing a streamlined process with no fees for temporary expansions of floor space to include new or expanded outdoor dining space.

“Basically we are utilizing sidewalks, on-street parking, any other areas of city control connected to restaurants. We have to work in conjunction with the county health department and the ABCA to make sure all rules are complied with,” Elliott said.

“The ABCA should be more flexible in this temporary arrangement.”

Elliott said what these plans come down to is to provide more relief to all restaurants that have suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic and assisting them in facilitating their return to normal business operations.

“Folks have been doing a great job of ordering out but their demand is still down from where it traditionally is,” he said.

“Our concern is that we lose some of these treasured local family restaurants that have been here for generations. We don’t want to lose those during this crisis.”

Restaurants interested in making arrangements for temporary outdoor dining should fill out a one-page application for a Street & Right of Way Permit on the City’s website.

Owners can return the application through the mail with required documentation, to the City Manager’s office, 1500 Chapline St., Wheeling, WV 26003 or email citymanager@wheelingwv.gov.

Questions or assistance regarding this program can be directed to the City of Wheeling’s Economic & Community Development Department by at 304-234-3701 or nprager@wheelingwv.gov.

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