Last week, city commissioners approved a plan to install barricades along Rehoboth Avenue in an effort to help town restaurants that apply for outdoor seating. The barricades started going up on Rehoboth Avenue early Friday.
“The goal is to aid social distancing and allow restaurants to expand with outdoor dining,” explains Comm. Susan Gay. “I think we’ll accomplish the distancing part and it will definitely help some restaurants but it’s becoming apparent that the barricades could be detrimental to other businesses — especially retail shops,” she added.
So far, Comm. Gay says “Only a few restaurants within the barricaded areas are applying for outdoor seating.” At last week’s meeting she had expressed the need to be careful about helping some businesses while unintentionally hurting others. “We’re all making compromises, but the plan needs more work,” she said.
A letter and two petitions with more than 40 signatures of business owners have been submitted to the commissioners for consideration this week. The majority are opposed to the barricades.
Grant Willis of the Sierra Moon Surf and Skate shop started the petition. Having no parking on the Avenue for the shops is bad for business, he says. “When you shut off parking, you shut off access,” he pointed out. He says he has firsthand experience with that since his shop is in the bandstand horseshoe where parking is often restricted which impacts his business.
Willis said the business community is all for helping the restaurants but the solution so far has not been on par with what was envisioned. The Chamber of Commerce sent this email alert on Friday stating that the plan was drafted by Rehoboth Beach Main Street.
Rehoboth Beach Main Street could not be reached for comment this past weekend.
As for why the barricades have “Suburban Propane” labels, Kevin Williams, public works director, says the company gave the city an “extremely good rental rate” for the barriers.
“They apparently have a big need in the winter at construction sites where they use many of these,” he said. “They had just the right amount [around 300], could deliver and assist with the set-up, and they offered them at a monthly rate over the summer that was too good to pass up,” he added.