Decatur Street Cape May Outdoor Dining
“Technically speaking, we’re back to 2019,” in the words of Cape May City Solicitor Chris Gillin-Schwartz. The solicitor refers to the expiration of all the temporary resolutions that expired at midnight on December 31st. In other words, all the temporary help the City of Cape May provided during the pandemic is well over.
The question arose at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Keeping Decatur Street closed is no longer an option. Or is it? Is outdoor dining dead in Cape May?
To be clear, in my opinion, the City did an incredible job facilitating the assistance of reopening Cape May businesses during the pandemic. Closing Decatur Street to traffic with barriers decorated by the Garden Club of Cape May created a pleasant atmosphere.
Citizens Speak Out
When Cape May resident Mary Notch spoke, the City Manager jumped. Although the temporary resolutions expired on December 31’st, a snowstorm created a slight delay in rolling back the barricades on Decatur Street. The City Manager was under the impression that he needed an act of council to remove the barriers.
The next day they were gone. Coffee Tyme posted a photo of the now open Decatur Street, and opinions started to roll like traffic on the 4th of July.
A highly unscientific poll is taking place on my social media accounts proves this is a divisive issue.
“Our family loves the outdoor dining on Decatur Street. I can understand why year-round residents would find it annoying, but with the Covid situation, it is really needed. So, perhaps the outdoor dining can be brought back in May as the weather warms up. The best of both worlds?” A seasonal visitor.
Some commented on the aesthetics of the streetscape:
“I believe the availability of outdoor dining adds to the charm of Cape May. However, since it is part of the streetscape of the town, particularly in the historic district, the restaurant owners/managers need to wisely invest in upgrading the looks of their outdoor space, so that it is visually attractive and blends in with the overall ambiance of our beautiful village.” James Moffat.
Jeff Gernitis of Fin’s Bar and Grille has invested a few of his dollars to create a vision of what the future could hold. An idea that could add money into the city coffers in additional patio fees if implemented.
There is always the argument that keeping Decatur closed creates an advantage for specific businesses. The common good for Cape May and its visitors seems to outweigh the notion of preferential use. If the benefiting businesses are willing to compensate the City for patio fees and costs, the City shouldn’t object.
In addition to aesthetic improvements, a bike lane for safety from Rotary Park, all the way to Beach Avenue, would be added. Making Decatur street one way would not decrease parking revenue because meters only exist on one side of the road.
“It’s less about the idea of outdoor dining because everyone enjoys a good meal or drink outside and more about how it fits within the parameters of the existing restaurants in terms of paying for the space they’re using and how it fits in with the town.” Meghan Protosi.
I am sick and tired of the pandemic. I am tired of wearing a mask. We don’t know what the future holds for next summer. Will Omicron remain the white elephant walking around Cape May? I liked life in 2019, but if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we can move forward and improve on what we already do.
We can do better. Keep outdoor dining an option.