The Leesburg Town Council in Loudoun County, Virginia, has voted to allow restaurants to offer outdoor dining in their parking lots as Northern Virginia moves into Phase 1 of coronavirus-related reopenings.
The only concern raised during the unanimous vote was the cost of applying for such a permit, which is free.
“This isn’t a one-month, or a one-off,” noted council member Ron Campbell. “This is a series of opportunities right through November, potentially.”
But there was a longer debate over what accommodations can be made for restaurants operating in downtown Leesburg, where restaurants don’t have parking lots.
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“The short answer is that we’re still working on that,” said Town Manager Kaj Dentler.
But Dentler made clear that closing streets so restaurants had more room to operate outside would also lead to more foot traffic than the town feels is safe.
“We don’t know what exactly the guidelines will be in Phase 2 other than the general maximum gathering limit rises from 10 to 50,” said Dentler.
“But even closing a block of King Street from Market to Loudoun would clearly increase more than 50 people, so that’s going to be problematic.”
For now, the town is still brainstorming ideas and working to come up with solutions that can help restaurants while not conflicting with state guidelines.
But “the options are limited,” cautioned Dentler.
The temporary modification to the Leesburg Zoning Ordinance concerning parking allows for restaurants to apply for a temporary use permit which, if approved, will be valid until resumption of indoor dining at full capacity is allowed by the Gov. Ralph Northam’s office, or until the town’s Continuity of Governance Order expires, whichever happens first.
Permits are required to comply with certain state laws regarding alcohol and with laws regarding access for people with disabilities.