SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah City Council voted recently to relax ordinances temporarily to allow for restaurants to participate in an expanded outdoor seating pilot program.
More than a dozen area restaurants are participating, we caught up with a few of them Thursday to see how they feel about the opportunity, and how it could help make up some ground after months of COVID-19-related closures and restrictions.
“I think it’s a great idea. I mean, anything that our local government can do right now to help our local businesses that are really hurting, I think it’s an excellent thing for the City," said Abbey Naspinski, General Manager of The 5 Spot in Habersham Village. She said it’s still a little early to tell how much the expanded seating under the tent in front of the restaurant will help.
But it’s Naspinski’s hope the outdoor option puts minds at ease for guests wanting to have a sit-down dining experience.
“My feeling is that a lot of the people who may not have felt safe to come in and sit down at a restaurant might feel safe having a restaurant experience outdoors," Naspinski said.
And with only so many staff members able to work the tables inside, now at 50-percent capacity, outdoor dining will allow restaurants to bring more employees back.
Naspinski said, “A lot of the tables that you see out here are table that were stacked up against the wall on top of each other yesterday morning. So more seating capacity is definitely allowed us to bring in more staff.”
Naspinski also pointed out more outdoor seating will allow for patrons to bring their pets to sit with them.
It’s not just The 5 Spot benefiting from the new outdoor seating. Their neighbors are also under the same tent, making it a collaborative effort for the greater good of all the restaurants that share the building.
Joyce Shanks, Owner of Bella’s Italian Cafe, said, “It’s really helpful to have neighbors, other restaurateurs to talk to, to see what they’re thinking and what they’re doing.”
Shanks said she believes the outdoor seating will make a big difference for her business when they open their doors in a few weeks.
“It’s just nice, even to sit on Habersham Street. We’ve got a fence, we’re going to have flowers, I think it will be a really nice place to eat.”
And like The 5 Spot, Bella’s GM believes more seating will allow them to bring back more staff.
“The fact that we will be able to seat more people and bring back more staff, I think is really exciting. I have people coming up to me everyday asking when we are going to reopen, so I’m sure we’re going to have enough people to bring those employees back," said Kisha Marsters, General Manager.
Both restaurants commented on the support they’ve received from their loyal customers and the community in what’s been a difficult time.
The tent spanning the length of the parking lot was provided at half the normal cost by Ranco Event Rentals.