Burlington to help restaurants, retailers with street closures, parking spaces

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont restaurants are officially open for outdoor seating, and in Burlington the city is working to give the eateries, retailers and their customers even more room.

The city of Burlington announced Friday it will be rolling out a plan to let restaurants and retailers expand into parking spaces in front of their businesses for outdoor seating or vending to help offset the state's COVID occupancy restrictions. Businesses can apply now with the goal of having approval by next weekend.

Diners basking in the sunshine on Church Street Friday said they were happy to make it back out to a restaurants.

"It's different because I haven't been to a restaurants in a few months," said Sammy Kohl of Warren.

"I just like Church Street - it's homey," said Judy King of Milton.

With tables spread out and restaurants following other strict guidelines, customers we spoke to said they feel safe -- and full. "It's great - I mean it's outdoors so it's fine

And the businesses that opened up Friday agree. "This is feeling great. People are ready to get out, have been getting a lot of calls for reservations. People are psyched and we are really happy to be making some money here," said Deb Miller, who co-owns Tom's Tiki Bar and Ken's Pizza.

"Wonderful. It's been awesome to get people out here again on such a beautiful day," said Steve Parent with the Church Street Tavern.

Seats full and the reservation books filling up at both Ken's Pizza and the Church Street Tavern. "We are excited to get open and get some people back downtown," Parent said.

There was similar excitement in Essex at McGillicuddy's Five Corners. "We are just ready to get back and serve the public," said the pub's Jason Forester. He says they had a slow start to their opening day but expect a busy weekend. "We have been filling up on our reservation log. We have people calling ahead for today, tomorrow -- looking forward to a good Memorial Day weekend."

Despite the enthusiasm from restaurant owners, some said complying with the new guidelines, like keeping tables 10-feet apart, is a struggle. "It is hard with less tables, for sure," Miller said.

"It's so dead out here. I mean, look around, it's Memorial Day weekend, there's nobody on Church Street," Kohl said.

There is also a plan in place in Burlington for grab and go parking spaces if a business requests them. And for even more space, the city says they plan to hold so-called "block parties" over the summer where they will close streets for short periods to give businesses more outdoor space to sell their products.