Double up to break even

This is a continuation to my blog post about eating from yesterday. You can’t just have one …

My community, Amherstburg, is pretty unique in its location of restaurants. County Road 20 is the road you’d take if you were going through town. On it, you’ll find many of the drive-through type of restaurants – McDonalds, Wendys, and many take out pizza places. We have the best pizza, hands-down.

Most of the restaurants that, in a regular world, you’d sit down and enjoy a meal are on Dalhousie Street which runs along the Detroit River and our spectacular King’s Navy Yard park. You’ll find Jaimie and me there just about every night after supper.

As I had mentioned yesterday, our town is considering closing Dalhousie and a couple of perpendicular streets and allowing restaurants to extend their footprint onto the street. Councilman Donald McArthur writes about it in this post and shares the map.

A map showing the Open Air Weekend Zone in Amherstburg

Now, it doesn’t look like more than a 2.5 block stretch but it’s amazing the number of restaurants and a craft brewery that can fit in that stretch.

I think that the plan is genius. By extending to the street, they effectively allow the restaurants to double the serving space or, in some cases, more than double them. We all know that the plan isn’t to double the number of customers; it’s to double the space so that potentially the same number of customers would fit into the newly defined space. So, doing the mathematics, if the government requires 50% capacity, it works out nicely.

Bizarrely, there’s one restaurant that could have doubled by itself. It just so happens to be a Mexican restaurant where my daughter is employed. It’s in a renovated house so it already has a usable veranda and front lawn. And the best margaritas you’ll find anywhere. They already had an offering called Walking Tacos that let you munch on the go in the Park.

Amherstburg has always prided itself on having a festival atmosphere. The town could dress up the streets with overhead lights and the restaurants have always had music entertainment. It will just have to move outside. By spreading the currently used tables and chairs out, there should be little additional furniture cost to the restaurants. Servers are going to get a little more exercise and I’m not sure what the plans for washrooms would be but it seems to me that these are just details to be hashed out. In one bold stroke, every restaurant now becomes wheelchair accessible.

The only thing that really takes a hit are the parking spaces along the road but McArthur includes a list of locations that are within walking distance. Since most people like to dine and then stroll through the park, they should be planning to do a little walking anyway. The town also acquired a couple of properties the past few years that are waiting for a purpose that could help the cause.

There is one restaurant and the Royal Canadian Legion that have not been open to provide takeout service to date. These road closures should now make it possible for them to join in.

It all seems to a truly workable solution to me. If you’ve ever been to New Orleans, you know that something like this can indeed have legs.

As I was thinking about the possibilities, I started to think of other places where I’ve lived – typically university towns – Waterloo, Kitchener, Toronto – and it’s not quite as easily envisioned. I think of Toronto and how we enjoyed going for lunch breaks up and down Spadina from Bloor Street. Shutting down that road would cause chaos. Smaller, family owned restaurants would definitely have issues. They’re small and crowded to begin with.

But you know what they say about necessity … Maybe there are solutions that are just in the waiting for someone to think of. Our town council thought this through and I think it has the possibility of being wildly successful.

As Ontario starts to think about re-opening, smart people need to put their minds together and come up with innovative solutions. We know that we’re not going to go back to life as we knew it for a long time, if ever. It may well involve rethinking and reinventing yourself.

Does your community have similar plans?

OTR Links 06/16/2020

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.