NORFOLK, Va. — Take a stroll along Granby St. in downtown Norfolk and you’ll notice that the outdoor dining spaces that popped up during the coronavirus pandemic are still around.
This time, they'll have a more solid foundation and an upgraded look. It’s an initiative Norfolk city leaders launched: a pilot program called Streateries. The city is allowing outdoor dining on public streets in downtown Norfolk and some surrounding areas, like Ghent.
After they go through a permitting process with the city, restaurants can keep their outdoor dining spaces through December of 2022. The city is offering businesses grants to help them spruce up and beautify their outdoor spaces. The goal is to get rid of impromptu metal barriers that popped up and build something more solid with an upgraded look.
Dina Taylor, the owner of the Grilled Cheese Bistro along Granby St., said outdoor dining has been the only place they’ve served customers up until this week, when she reopened the inside of her restaurant.
“It helped us out tremendously…. kept us alive,” said Taylor.
Taylor is ahead of the game. With the help of the city, she’s built a new wooden structure around her outdoor dining space. Taylor said the city gave her a $5,000 grant to do it.
“Everyone has lost a tremendous amount of money with their businesses and elsewhere, but this kind of helps us make up for that loss,” said Taylor.
She’s on board, but some who live downtown aren’t. Michael McMahon is one of them.
“I think they should get rid of it, honestly,” said McMahon. “There’s really limited parking to begin with, so that just takes away more parking spaces that could be available.”
At Press 626 in Ghent, manager John Mark Tise said the plan is to keep their outdoor seating open.
“It kind of brought a whole new light to dining outdoors to Hampton Roads,” said Tise. “It’s kind of like that European lifestyle that everyone wanted. So, it’s definitely helped business dramatically.”
While the pandemic brought forth so many changes, restaurant owners believe this whole new dining experience out in the open air is worth keeping.
The city plans to take another close look at the pilot program before it ends in 2022.
Business owners who are interested in obtaining a permit for the pilot program can apply here.