Decatur Street Cape May Outdoor Dining Discussion Continues

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.

Preferential Use

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.


Additional photos of Jeff’s vision.

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  1. Cindy Holder
    January 21, 2022 / 1:20 pm

    That looks awesome and so much safer than having that street open to traffic. It wasn’t a problem getting around with Decatur Street street closed since Covid

  2. David Greene
    January 21, 2022 / 1:51 pm

    John. Thank you for this thoughtful article, which very intelligently considers all sides of this important option. With the writing of this article, and the informal polling on your social media accounts, you are actually advancing city policy by presenting your findings and giving your own analysis. Bravo for this public service, and thank you!

    On a personal note, I ask and encourage you: will you please take a formal role in city government? You would be ideally suited, and we would all benefit.

  3. William
    January 21, 2022 / 2:38 pm

    Good to see bike lanes incorporated in Jeff Gernitis/Fins vision of the streetscape.

  4. January 21, 2022 / 3:07 pm

    Personally I liked it closed and didn’t notice any traffic problems even on the busiest summer days. That being said I would really like to read an opinion of having it open again.

  5. January 21, 2022 / 4:47 pm

    Nice write up. Thanks for keeping us informed. Our family are seasonal visitors (so, from a taxpayer standpoint, we don’t have a horse in this race with regard to city council decisions) but we really liked the outdoor dining. A former server myself, I did empathize with the wait staff (especially during inclement weather) but I think the restaurants did an incredible job given the hand they were dealt with this pandemic.

  6. Donna McBride
    January 24, 2022 / 8:51 pm

    I don’t agree with closing Decatur St because it makes driving for those that live on Decatur very difficult. And if you want to close Decatur, why not close Jackson, Perry and Ocean for that matter. There are restaurants on Jackson, Perry and Ocean that could also benefit from pedestrian only right of way. This proposal results in an unequal plan for other shops and Restaurant in the same area.