Manchester works to make restaurant reopening smoother

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MANCHESTER — The town of Manchester has released guidelines to aid restaurant owners as they open up after close to two months of being closed.

Back in March, Gov. Phil Scott ordered all restaurants to close their dining rooms and switch to delivery or carry-out operations only. Many have carried on with those restrictions, but beginning May 22, relaxed restrictions mean restaurants can again offer outside sit-down dining with a host of restrictions.

At its meeting May 19, the Manchester Select Board passed a handful of measures to make that as easy as possible moving forward including allowing restaurants to use outdoor space more efficiently including parking lots and sidewalks, and reducing some zoning issues and dropping the fees for zoning regulations that cannot be relaxed.

The changes come the day before Scott's changes relax the restrictions and, importantly, just before the Memorial Day Weekend was to get underway.

The town, in a press release issued May 21, said, "We understand the importance of Memorial Day, especially with the beautiful weather that is forecasted, so Town Manager John O'Keefe has agreed to be available during the long weekend to assist businesses that may have questions about implementation. Please email John at j.okeefe@manchester-vt.gov to schedule an onsite visit."

One of the changes the Select Board approved May 21 is allowing the use of parking lots and other outdoor areas, such as patios or courtyards for outdoor seating or outdoor commerce as long as occupancy does not exceed 40 percent of legal occupancy as restricted by the governor.

The changes are intended to help the establishments regain some traction lost when they were forced to switch to delivery or take-out only service.

The release says to ensure that areas used do not inhibit traffic circulation in parking lots and roadways and seating areas are protected to ensure safety.

The change does not apply to businesses in the Village of Manchester, which has jurisdiction in the Village.

The Select Board also authorized restaurants to transfer seating from indoors to outdoor areas as long as the number of seats offered to not exceed the overall permit.

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Restaurant owners were advised to email O'Keefe before moving seats, to report the number of seats being moved.

The board also voted to waive fees related to vending for licensed restaurants that operated in 2019 on their parcel or a parcel directly adjacent for the rest of the calendar year 2020 provided that businesses file a vending license with the Town of Manchester.

The vending license application can be found at www.manchester-vt.gov/document_center. This section does not apply to businesses in the Village of Manchester.

The board also waived the fee for temporary zoning permits.

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Businesses are likely to have to make modifications to their structures in order to comply with state rules and those changes will be temporary.

The town cannot waive the permitting process as required by the town zoning bylaws, but the Select Board chose to waive the fee for temporary permits, which are defined as a permit that expires no later than Dec. 31.

The temporary permit does not preclude a business from reapplying for a permit for permanent use.

The board also directed the zoning administrator to act as expeditiously as possible in reviewing and approving temporary applications including expanded administrative review whenever possible. Businesses that wish to take advantage of this measure should contact Zoning Administrator Janet Hurley at j.hurley@manchester-vt.gov or 802-362-1313, option 4.

This section does not apply to businesses in the Village of Manchester.

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The board has directed town staff to work with businesses interested in reconfiguring adjacent public outdoor space to help that business during the pandemic restart.

Options that may be considered include the use of public streetside parking spaces to detour pedestrians and the use of sidewalks for dining and outdoor displays.

Contact O'Keefe to discuss options.

Pedestrian flow and property distancing and ADA compliance must be maintained on public sidewalks.

The board is considering installing additional picnic tables in town properties such as Adams Park and The Factory Point Town Green.

The board will consider those options at its next board meeting June 2.

For more information, contact O'Keefe at j.okeefe@manchester-vt.gov or 802-362-1313, option 2.

Contact Darren Marcy at

dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.


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