Downtown restaurants to have outdoor seating option


HUNTINGBURG — Restaurants along Huntingburg’s Fourth Street will soon be able to have outdoor seating at their businesses.

The Huntingburg Board of Public Works and Safety approved Thursday morning a memorandum of understanding for the Huntingburg Restaurant Relief Program. Each restaurant would have to sign a MOU to utilize the program.

“I think it’s worth a try,” board member Kerry Blessinger said. “It’s a good opportunity for them.”

The program will allow restaurants to use outdoor seating options that the street’s new design is capable of handling.

“Our Fourth Street project is designed for street-side seating,” Mayor Denny Spinner said, “and we were in the process of developing a long-term policy for use of that. But in light of the COVID experience and allowing our restaurants to expand their footprint, we have come up with a temporary policy.”

Per Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s orders for reopening the economy in stages, a restaurant’s indoor seating capacity is currently limited to 50%; on June 14, that will increase to 75%.

The restaurant relief program will allow restaurants two options for outdoor space. The first option is to use 6 feet of space immediately in front of their building on the sidewalk; that would leave 4 feet of sidewalk space for pedestrians passing by. The second will allow restaurants to use the parking spaces in front of their building; barricades would need to be put in place for that kind of seating.

“We wanted to give them two options in this plan, to give them a flexibility for expanding this program, if they so desired,” Spinner said. After talking with the restaurant owners on the street, they indicated to Spinner that they would like to try the sidewalk seating first, he said.

As part of the agreement, the restaurants would have to comply with the restaurant relief program’s policy and state regulations, collect and remove all the trash generated outdoors due to the restaurant’s operations and be responsible for maintaining peace and order on the premises they use, City Attorney Phil Schneider explained.

Spinner expects there to be inquiries from other businesses on the street about implementing similar policies. But he felt that something needed to be done to help restaurants, since they are under specific capacity restrictions.

“This would give them an opportunity to have some additional revenue in this next month,” he said, “and to use the street as it has been designed to be used.”

The other board members felt this would be beneficial in helping downtown restaurants survive.

The program will be in effect until July 5, in line with the state’s extended emergency orders. Gov. Eric Holcomb recently extended the orders to July 4, the date that he expects to go into the final phase of reopening the economy and lifting all restrictions.

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