In every community there are going to be differences of opinion, between residents and business owners and between business owners themselves! Having a Main Street present to hear all the concerns and mitigate that conflict can be a huge asset to the neighborhood and can help turn that conflict into actionable change. 

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, restaurants and bars were struggling to survive. When the streateries program began, Michele Molotsky of Logan Circle Main Street encouraged all her restaurants and bars to take advantage of the use of outdoor space to increase capacity. One business owner accredited the Main Street program and the Streatery initiative as the reason his business is still alive today:

“As I look over the space and what it’s evolved into, it is hands down one of the assets of our business… The streatery here is the reason we had our first profitable month post-pandemic.”

Many businesses throughout the Main Street program were able to survive due largely in part to Michele’s contributions in the permitting process of designing and installing a streatery outside their business. But they knew public sympathy would wane and opinions would change.

After the initial wave of support and effort by the community to support local businesses and restaurants, a lot of folks went back to “business as usual,” but with rising costs of business and inflation, many businesses have not ever fully recovered from the experiences of the pandemic. Businesses are constantly having to evolve and innovate to compete with the tight profit margins that are the reality of business here in DC.

When a local retail store began voicing their complaints about a neighboring streatery in front of their business, Michele worked together with the business owners to find a solution that took both businesses’ needs into account. By shortening the length of the streatery and finding creative ways to work together, LCMS supported businesses as they discovered what their “new normal” would become, and helped them find a compromise that left both parties happy.

That doesn’t mean that there won’t still be community members who have their own opinion about what would be best for their community. Just a few days ago Logan Circle Main Street received the following comment on Instagram:

“What needs to be done is after 4+ years … it’s time to get rid of these outdoor restaurant spaces that are being used as storage. They make the neighborhood look terrible and dirty and taking away. At this point, they become monstrosities …Lots of parking spots which are needed and hurting businesses that have customers who cannot park.”

So as we approach the four year anniversary of the first Covid-19 shutdown, should streateries be ditched as a pandemic mitigation tool? Or are they vital parts of the new restaurant economy? Is parking in Logan Circle a larger need than more tables and higher customer capacity?  

The city continues to explore more permanent solutions to these outdoor spaces, there’s an opportunity to provide clear aesthetic guidelines, more affordable access to design, and modular options that can be taken down easily when not in use. Michele of Logan Circle Main Street continues to stay up to date on the latest permits and requirements so she can provide support to the businesses that now think of these “temporary” outdoor pop-ups as essential parts of their business.