Westerville gives patio permits to help businesses with distancing
The city of Westerville wants to help keep local businesses in business.
One way the city is helping is by providing quick, free temporary patio permits valid through Nov. 1 to help retail and restaurant businesses accommodate social-distancing recommendations amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, said Rob Rishel, Westerville economic-development coordinator.
Businesses may apply to the city for permanent or temporary patios at westerville.org/forms.
When the coronavirus hit, Rishel said, Westerville establishments and businesses across the nation found themselves needing to socially distance their patrons.
"A lot of them don't have the room," he said. "The idea was to use outdoor space. There is more of a comfort level with some people being outdoors. We thought, let's try to find a way to get them outside."
Temporary patio permits have been available since June, but the city just recently received applications.
Barrel & Boar, 8 N. State St., was one of the first to go through the process.
"There is a private parking lot where they are and they leased space," Rishel said. "(Owner Stan Riley) put in a planter situation to separate it out. It's exactly the kind of thing we're looking to do."
Riley, owner of Barrel & Boar, said the outdoor patio has worked out great overall.
"The Westerville restaurant (location) was struggling with people not wanting to eat inside," he said. "I'm grateful to the city of Westerville for the quick approval process to help save our business. It has been fantastic."
Riley said he also is thankful he was able to lease half of the private parking lot.
"I really believe it will be a game changer for the restaurant," he said. "With COVID, it has been tough. I think it will be a great thing to build on. My goal is to make it permanent."
With people able to see and enjoy Barrel & Boar's addition, Rishel said, the city is starting to get calls from other businesses.
"We have several restaurants who have started to pursue it," he said. "I wouldn't be shocked if we see one or two more filed in the next few weeks."
Rishel said the program was designed to be quick and free of charge.
"We just want to give businesses more space to get products sold," he said. "I'd love to see Barrel & Boar file for a more permanent (patio), so God willing, when we're through this, they will have a nice patio and it will be a nice amenity for the city."
He said the city wants to help keep businesses operating.
"We don't want them to have to shut down again," Rishel said.
He said businesses have received assistance through WeCAN -- Westerville COVID Assistance Now -- with grants up to $2,500.
Rishel said some are using the grants to explore temporary patios. The WeCAN Program will assist small businesses as they reopen and reestablish normal business hours in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown.
The intent is to provide recovery assistance to get small businesses back open, get employees back to work and to create and preserve job opportunities.