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Want to eat in the middle of the street? Winston-Salem considering it on weekends

Mayor Allen Joines said two things are stopping the city from approving street dining downtown right now: the pandemic and protests.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — There’s no question about it: Triad restaurants are suffering.

There’s now a petition on Change.org calling for weekend street dining in Winston-Salem to help attract customers safely.

RELATED: Triad bar owners are unhappy their businesses will stay closed with phase 2 extension

The concept? Some roads would close down for restaurants to set up shop downtown. 

The question is: will it happen?

Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership president Jason Thiel has been working on the idea since we entered phase one of the reopening plan.

"We’ve been looking at doing outdoor dining in the public right-of-way, that’s something that’s more tricky because it requires the city’s permission to do that," Thiel stated.

Winston-Salem partnership did not start the petition, but they back it.

"I responded to the petition and said 'yeah we’re all in support, we’ve been working on it' so really I think it's in the city of Winston-Salem's court as to when they’ll allow us to do it and to what scope."

Theil said he went to the city and asked for a trial run on Fourth Street between Liberty and Cherry Streets, but was shot down for safety and social distancing concerns.  

"Given the concern from the city, we were looking to do it July 11 and 12 and they said 'no wait until phase 3,' so that’s our new plan we’re going to wait until phase 3."

In a virtual town hall with the Triad Food & Beverage Coalition, Mayor Allen Joines said it's not just about the pandemic.

The Mayor said the police chief advised the city to hold off on outdoor dining because of consistent protests downtown that could interfere with dining and vice versa.

"The primary concern was, at the time the {outdoor dining} request was made about two weeks ago, we were having major protests and demonstrations virtually every evening here in downtown," Mayor Joines stated. "The current level of social discourse, the social unrest that's going on, that could be a way for those two to collide a little bit and the second issue was the Governor's order of no more than 25 people in an outdoor setting."

Though the mayor did say if restaurants spaced its tables out sufficiently, it could be considered a gathering of less than 25.

"If you had one restaurant area with only 5 tables in that area, it's not more than 25 so it's not in violation," he continued. "So we're trying to figure out a way around that."

As Winston-Salem continues to look into the possibility of street dining, keep in mind that restaurants across North Carolina can apply for permits to allow for temporary sidewalk and parking lot dining.

"One of the things the state of North Carolina has allowed is that restaurants can expand their sidewalk café to in front of other people's property as long as it has city permission," Thiel explained.

RELATED: Greensboro city leaders offer permits for restaurants to have outdoor seating

The City of Greensboro said it has issued one permit for outdoor dining so far to Green Bean café.

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