Laurels: Expanded outdoor dining could be nice, COVID-19-prompted change

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Laurel to restaurants working to provide patrons with more opportunities to dine outdoors.

Especially as the community continues to cope with changes and cancellations prompted by COVID-19, an expansion of outdoor dining would be a welcome change of pace as more pleasant, fall weather comes closer.

Sweet Meadow Cafe is planning to transform an old alleyway into an artistic dining space, but other businesses, particularly those downtown, may only have the sidewalk as an option.

It’s important to look at an expansion of outdoor dining as both providing a pleasant experience and seating capacity that could boost business. That’s why the city should revisit single-day street closure proposals, which could accommodate dozens of tables at a safe distance from one another. It might be worthwhile, too, to consider whether the process for businesses to request use of the sidewalk could be streamlined and made easier when there’s a desire to do so.

The city understandably has limitations about the width of sidewalks on which outdoor dining is OK. Now more than ever, it’s important to have guidelines about public safety. But our community would benefit from creative solutions to boost public confidence about the safety of eating out.

Laurel to the creative solutions from the city of Kannapolis and the Cannon Ballers for the new ballpark in the shadow of a canceled minor league season.

The city’s downtown areas closest to Atrium Health Ballpark have been abuzz with activity on a regular basis. Some come to downtown just for a walk or run. Others travel for a meal, a drink and enjoyable afternoon at the ballpark. The baseball stadium required a major financial commitment from the city of Kannapolis, but it has proven to be a facility for the general public to enjoy at its leisure.

The Cannon Ballers, meanwhile, are making the best of their situation by becoming a rental venue — from fantasy football drafts to batting practice. As long as the events comply with social distancing and safety guidelines, regular rentals can be a positive development for the team.

Even though COVID-19 has put a damper on Kannapolis’ downtown redevelopment, the people regularly traveling to its downtown provide a positive outlook about what’s to come.