By Andrea Harwood Palmer
The Village of Ballston Spa has closed down a main commercial street during the coronavirus pandemic to make more space for outdoor dining for restaurants.
A section of Front Street is closed to vehicles from 4-10 p.m. those specified days every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“The Village of Ballston Spa is open for business,” said Mayor Larry Woolbright.
“It’s been going great. People are coming out. The restaurants are doing good business. People really appreciate being able to get out again. We have a nice 15-foot-wide pedestrian path blocked off down the middle of the street so everyone has plenty of space to get where they’re going,” he said.
“Restaurants are all out with their tables on the sidewalks, with plenty of space on the side streets. They’re doing good business, and they’re all relieved to be able to open back up after being shut down for so long,” said Woolbright.
The village started closing off the street in early June. Woolbright said they are evaluating periodically as things progress.
“If restaurants are able to open back up at full capacity, they probably won’t need it anymore. Until that time, it’s going to continue, until the weather starts to get bad,” he said.
“I’m hoping that some of the other shops start putting stuff out, when they see the crowds coming downtown for the restaurants. I’ve had conversations with some of the retail spots, and they’ve thought it might be worth putting things out on the sidewalk. I think it’d be nice if we got a little more critical mass to our activity, in addition to our restaurants,” said the mayor.
He said newspapers accounts from other areas sparked the idea and some local business owners also suggested it. “Being a small village, we were able to mobilize a lot quicker than bigger, more complex places. We put it together in a matter of weeks, and pulled it off.”
Four restaurants are serving alcohol on municipal property. Property applications were filed by Woolbright with the state liquor authorities to allow it. A license or permit was not needed for anything besides the alcohol. Those restaurants are the Next Door Kitchen & Bar, the Front Street Social Club, the Sunset Grille and Henry’s Irish Tavern.
“It took me a couple of days, all day, to get the applications together,” the mayor said. “The whole packet was about 15 pages. We had to get it in five days before we wanted to start, to allow for processing time. I sent it all in on a Thursday afternoon, and I got a response from the State Liquor Authority about 20 minutes later,” said Woolbright.
“They were expecting to be overwhelmed with requests, so they were at full staff waiting for applications … We were able to start without a hitch,” said Woolbright.
“It’s been great. People are just so happy to get out. It’s been very successful, and I’m really happy with it,” said Karen Sherman, owner of the Sunset Grille. “I’m very grateful to the town for doing this, and for helping businesses along when it’s been quite difficult.”
By Andrea Harwood Palmer