CONWAY — Conway selectmen on Tuesday unanimously voted not only to extend the town’s outdoor dining permit past Columbus Day, but also to bring it back next year, starting Memorial Day.
Last May, they instituted their outdoor dining permitting process, administered by John Eastman, Conway Parks and Recreation director, in response to state pandemic guidelines that allowed restaurants to offer outdoor dining.
Making the request to extend the permits Tuesday were Wally Campbell, executive director of the 25-member Valley Originals and Rick Luciano, owner of Merlino’s Family Steak House of North Conway, a member of the Valley Originals.
“Without the outdoor dining approvals, many restaurants may not survive,” said Campbell, former longtime operator of Fandangle’s Restaurant, which burned in September 2007.
“We appreciate the outdoor dining, and we are kind of hoping, if it would satisfy the requirements, you may want to have to proceed with getting approval for another year,” Campbell told selectmen.
Luciano said he hoped the permit could be extended because he was “personally looking for some permanancy” with outdoor dining on the north side of his property, where he has put up a tent and tables throughout spring and summer.
“I am looking at an investment, but I don’t want to invest a lot of money if I cannot continue to use it,” said Luciano.
“I do anticipate this 6-foot distancing to be here for a long time. That being said, I lost 50 percent of my capacity inside (due to state reopening guidelines)," Luciano said.
"Obviously, I would suffer a bit in the winter, but I can live with that — but with the law limiting my indoor capacity to 50 percent, it would be pretty hard to survive (without the outdoor dining).”
Selectmen Carl Thibodeau, Steve Porter and Mary Carey Seavey all said they had heard good comments from the public and business owners about the outdoor dining permitting policy.
Holmes said he also had not heard any complaints from the public.
The board unanimously approved a motion made by Seavey and seconded by Thibodeau to extend the outdoor dining permit past Columbus Day this year, weather permitting. They also OK'd a motion by Porter, seconded by John Colbath, to bring it back next year, starting Memorial Day.
After the meeting, Campbell said, “It’s really good to have the support of the town. Sometimes, you know, you go in there and you feel a little uneasy. But I want to compliment the selectmen as they made us feel very welcome."
He said he is aware that a few of the Valley Originals members such as Delaney’s and Merlino’s are planning to make improvements in terms of landscaping for next year to help enhance the outdoor dining experience.
“There will be a different look is what I am hearing," Campbell said. "With landscaping and flowers and tents, they will be working to make it more attractive."
Dot Seybold, general manager of Settlers Green retail center of North Conway, last week said that the three restaurants in the complex — Barley & Salt, Fire and Black Cap Grille — have found ways to install outdoor heating to help extend the outdoor dining into the fall season.
“All three have beautiful outdoor dining areas so they were really ready for this outdoor pandemic dining experience and they have done a great job — we are talking of putting up sides and outdoor heaters of the fall,” said Seybold, noting that several shops are expecting a strong fall especially from visitors from in-state.
Establishments that obtained outdoor dining permits from the town included: Merlino’s; 99 Restaurant; Priscilla’s; Boston Brothers; Delaney’s; Tuckerman Brewing Company; Chef’s Bistro; Moat Mountain Smokehouse; Stairway Cafe; Cigar Shenanigans; Vito Marcello’s Italian Bistro; Fiesta Jalisco Mexican Restaurant; Sea Dog Brewing Co.; the Muddy Moose; the Met Coffeehouse; the Lobster Trap; Wicked Fresh; Flatbread; the Underground Cafe and Bagels Plus.