As Phase Three arrives in the Capital Region, the Saratoga Springs City council is allowing restaurants and bars to expand their outdoor seating.
During a virtual city council meeting Tuesday night, the Saratoga Springs restaurant industry spoke in favor of an amendment to expand outdoor seating in public spaces to, and not limited to, city sidewalks.
Nancy Bambara is Vice President and COO of DZ Restaurants, which operates three restaurants in the city.
“Our downtown and our Saratoga Springs community as a whole is desperate, particularly in the restaurant industry, to get reopened. And I think by adding a handful of seats outside on the sidewalk will allow everyone in our industry to hopefully survive. I’m not so worried about the next couple of months, but certainly the next 12 months are going to be challenging,” said Bambara.
August Rosa, who owns Pint Sized on Broadway and on Lark Street in Albany, asked city councilors to get creative as other communities also consider new ways to reopen bars and restaurants.
“Being creative is going to be how we can compete with people in this, like, super critical time for us. And that’s all I have to say,” said Rosa.
Catherine Hover owns Palette Café, which has locations in Saratoga Springs and Schenectady. Hover said the city looks like “morons” because it didn’t allow expanded outdoor dining sooner.
“And the time is now. It’s not in four weeks when we’re at 100 percent capacity, it should have been four months ago. And so I think that there are plenty of ways that we can do this. There’s actually national organizations that have plans in place that literally just need to implement. And we have to move! Like, enough already,” said Hover.
Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly said she took offense to the city being called “morons.”
Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton explained that the city must follow state reopening guidelines. Outdoor dining returned during Phase Two, indoor dining in Phase Three.
“And so we couldn’t implement expanded seating until we go the clear from the state. So it’s not that we’ve been waiting or delaying, we’ve been waiting for the phase, for the businesses to open that these things apply. And over the last few weeks all we’ve been doing is discussing this creatively with individual business owners, the chamber, and every organization we have that had input on this we’ve been working with. But we couldn’t implement it until the phases opened,” said Dalton.
The city council had previously held that Broadway, a state highway, could not be closed to allow for expanded seating. The city, which relies on tourism, is already facing a $15-17 million budget gap. This year, “the summer place to be” will host a horse racing season closed to fans.
Commissioner of Accounts John Franck, who brought forward the amendment to expand sidewalk seating, said the item would not apply to retail, but he did not think retail would be prevented from operating outside.
“We don’t have licenses for retail and different things, so that’s why this license has to do with drinking and eating establishments. So if this goes through and people come to a plan, I’m sure that retail and those areas would have potentially the same ability, but we don’t license those. So that would also be open, but the Accounts department only has the licensing for drinking and eating establishments,” said Franck.
The measure to expand outdoor seating passed unanimously after Mayor Kelly called for a vote.
“So with that, all those in favor say aye.
“Any opposed? The matter passes.”