After a successful season of street closures during the warmer months last year, Glen Cove has decided to continue to close off the downtown streets on weekend nights again this year to create more outdoor dining space. The City Council held two public hearings on the matter last month, and approved the closing of portions of School and Glen streets on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
The resolution for Downtown Summer Nights was approved on April 27, took effect on May 1 and will remain in effect through Oct. 31, allowing closures from 6 to 11 p.m. on School Street, between Highland Road and Glen Street, and on Glen Street, between School and Pulaski Street, “for the purposes of promoting downtown businesses and outdoor dining on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, weather permitting,” according to Mayor Tim Tenke.
Though it was ultimately unanimously approved, the ordinance was met with some debate among City Council members. The closures encompass the bulk of the downtown restaurants, but several are not within the designated areas, such as those on School Street, between Brewster Street and Highland Road, including Meritage Wine Bar.
At the final public hearing, Councilman Rocco Totino asked if it was possible to turn School and Glen into one-way streets on those nights, rather than fully close them. “Considering the fact that there are not many restaurants on Glen Street open during those hours, is there a way we could perhaps close it off from the corner of School and Glen streets to Highland Road, leaving Glen Street open, so cars can get through?” Totino asked. “I think it’s something we should take into consideration.”
Councilwoman Danielle Fugazy Scagliola noted that Noble Savage is on Glen Street, and a new restaurant will be opening on the same block, in the space previously occupied by Charles Hardware.
“We’re trying to make it inclusive for as many as possible that may want to take advantage of it,” Tenke said.
Other municipalities, Totino noted, have put up dividers so that diners stay within a designated area, and the streets are one-way to allow cars through. “I’m not trying to take away outdoor seating from anybody,” he said. “I just feel like it closes off the entire downtown area and doesn’t seem as inviting. You won’t be able to see anything open.”
Closing off the streets entirely, and closing those particular blocks, are a matter of public safety, Tenke said. “Unless they were putting in some sort of heavy-duty planters or concrete dividers to protect diners who would usually be unaware of a vehicle approaching that might be a danger to them … mixing those two in the roadway is very dangerous,” the mayor said. “That’s what I was told by the police. Other municipalities that have this have to be very careful with that, because even with a one-way, if someone loses control, there’s no time to react if you’re at a table in the street.”
Referring to dividers, Fugazy Scagliola said, “There’s a cost involved with that, and then there’s the issue of taking them in and out, so it’s not a simple deal.”
“It’s never a good idea to have pedestrians and vehicles sharing a space,” Councilman John Perrone added.
After the vote, Tenke said, “I’m very happy [with] the council for getting this ordinance passed to help our downtown. It’s a really big deal, and many people who came out last summer said they were happy to get out and walk in the streets. It really was a success, and to not continue that would have been a mistake. We’ll do it for as long as it’s needed.”
Patricia Holman, executive director of the Glen Cove Downtown Business Improvement District, said she worked closely with the city, the Building Department and the city attorney to ensure that outdoor seating permits were in order, along with State Liquor Authority certificates so that restaurants and bars could serve liquor in the streets.
“The Glen Cove Business Improvement District took great strides to make sure each and every restaurant was represented,” Holman said. “To close the street in the upper School Street area would force traffic to go through private streets.”
The street closures were made a priority last year, when indoor dining capacity was limited to 25 percent. Now restaurants are allowed 75 percent capacity indoors, and more people have been vaccinated.
“It’s not as urgent as it was last year,” Holman acknowledged, “however, I do think that a lot of people are still not comfortable eating inside, and if they have the opportunity, they’ll choose to eat outdoors.”
Last year, she said, a lot of restaurant owners told her the outdoor dining helped boost their revenues, and that they were grateful for the additional space. “It also created an atmosphere that something was going on downtown,” Holman said, “and it also created a more intimate atmosphere for diners, without having the traffic noise on the street.”