The Alexandria City Council has voted to keep in place the pedestrian-only restaurant zone in Old Town through March 2021.
The 100 block of King Street near the Potomac River and waterfront park of the Northern Virginia city has restaurant seating on the sidewalks and along the road where cars typically would park. A broad corridor down the center of the road is open for walkers and social distancing.
“Right now, we’re all focused very much on winterizing,” Karl Moritz, Alexandria’s planning director, said of the city and “streatery” restaurants.
Moritz said consideration is being given to the balance of wanting to provide a comfortable experience during the winter while allowing people to eat safely outdoors.
“There’s the question of how enclosed structures can be, as well as technical issues that we need to be prepared for, such as, ‘What do we do when we need to plow the streets for snow?’” Moritz said.
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Describing the vibe that restauranteurs are trying to maintain, Scott Shaw of Alexandria Restaurant Partners said they’re hoping to keep an open feeling with healthy air flow.
“If it feels like you’re indoors in a restaurant, then you might as well go indoors to dine,” Shaw said.
The idea is that temporary structures would not be completely enclosed, they’d just provide warmth and shelter from the elements.
“What I’m hearing from customers and even people just strolling down the street is they’re coming around the corner, and they’re pausing, and they’re going, ‘Wow, this feels like Europe,’” Shaw said. “Summer in Europe is all outdoor dining, right?”
Shaw also noted that many restaurants have taken measures to improve air quality for eating indoors.
“A lot of restaurants, ours included, have spent a fair amount of money putting in things like air ionizers, which are designed to kill viruses as air circulates through the interior of the restaurant,” Shaw said. “Plus, you have really serious air handling systems in the kitchens.”
In Alexandria, face coverings are required for all in indoor and outdoor public places.
“We invite you to enjoy Alexandria, but bring your mask,” Moritz said.