John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Newtown Supervisors Approve #COVID19 Outdoor Sales & Dining Resolution

Newtown Supervisors Approve #COVID19 Outdoor Sales & Dining Resolution

On June 24, 2020, the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved a resolution "establishing guidelines and policy for outdoor sales of merchandise and/or outdoor dining for existing businesses in Newtown Township during the COVID-19 pandemic" (see the resolution embedded below or click here to download the PDF version.)

You might say this is opening a door that many businesses have already walked through. Several restaurants, for example, have already established their own guidelines (read, for example, "Solstice Restaurant Develops Health & Safety Guidelines for Dining Based, in Part, on Reopening Survey").

Nearby municipalities - including Newtown Borough, Doylestown Borough, and Middletown Township - have already passed similar resolutions weeks ago. Newtown's resolution was modeled after Montgomery Township’s resolution and in accordance with CDC guidelines.

The first iteration of the resolution was discussed at the June 15, 2020, BOS Work Session (listen to the discussion here). At that time, Supervisor Kyle Davis and I objected to a provision that would make it virtually impossible for most restaurants to allow outdoor dining on public sidewalks in front of their establishments. 

The contentious provision stated: "If a merchant proposes to use part of a sidewalk for outdoor sales of merchandise and/or outdoor dining, the merchant shall allow sufficient space for pedestrians and persons with disabilities to traverse the sidewalk while maintaining a minimum 6-foot distance between each person."

I contended that it would be impossible for the merchant to ensure a distance of 6 feet between diners and pedestrians walking on the sidewalk. This is clearly illustrated by the setup at the Green Parrot on North Sycamore Street (see figue below). The final resolution passed on June 24 excluded the 6-foot distance requirement (shown in bold text above).

Outdoor seating at the Green Parrot. Note that there is ample 
room for pedestrians to pass but they may not be 6 feet or
more from diners.
Health & Safety Still a Major Concern: Submit a Plan

Of course, the Township's primary goal is to ensure that the health and safety of citizens are protected. To that end, the resolution states that "Prior to using any outdoor space to conduct outdoor sales of merchandise and/or outdoor dining, a merchant shall submit a plan to the Township for approval which shall depict the exact location of any outdoor merchandise sales and/or outdoor dining facilities, and shall describe the safeguards being employed by the merchant to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its patrons and the public."

The resolution automatically expires within 90 days of its passage, but the term can be extended beyond that by a vote of the Board of Supervisors.

The Resolution

Posted on 25 Jun 2020, 01:04 - Category: COVID-19

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