The City of Saratoga Springs has been particularly inflexible when it comes to offering local restaurant and business owners space for street-level socially distanced dining during the COVID-19 crisis. But after some good, old-fashioned political pressure, in the form of a staged sit-in in front of City Hall, by the president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce Todd Shimkus on June 28, the city government seems to have finally budged.
As of June 28, an ordinance was agreed upon to shut down a portion of Henry Street—with concrete blocks literally enforcing the rule—so that Scallions, Henry Street Taproom, Flatbread Social and Saratoga Paint and Sip could set up outdoor, socially distanced sidewalk seating that extends into the street. It’s a first for the city, which is staring down a potential summer without fans at Saratoga Race Course and a nearly entirely quiet one at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (though it should be noted that the Hall & Oates shows scheduled for August 31 has yet to be canceled). Shimkus told Saratoga Today that he hopes it will lead to more street-level closings for the same purpose.
“The city really took care of us here,” says Ryan McFadden, owner of Henry Street Taproom and Flatbread Social. “They’re shutting down Henry Street half of the way for the summer. My wife and I just finished ordering all of the furniture, which was high demand and scarce.”
Fellow Henry Street business owner, Catherine Hover, who owns Saratoga Paint and Sip, as well as Broadway’s Palette Cafe, also lauds the city’s move. “The city’s allowance to use half of Henry Street and Short Alley for outdoor activity will ensure that we have our very best shot at sustaining and surviving the economic challenge to provide safe and comfortable experience for our Paint and Sip experience,” says Hover.
By no means was this a first for the city and the street. Last year, long before the COVID crisis hit, the city blocked off an even larger portion of Henry Street for two weeks to test out a bike lane.