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Will 'Pop-Up' Cafes Pop Up in Westport?

WESTPORT, Conn. – Pop-up cafes — on-street dining areas made popular in New York City — may be part of downtown Westport's future. But more research is required before any plans can move forward, the Board of Selectmen decided Wednesday.

Under the proposal, restaurateurs would be allowed to turn parking spaces along street curbs into seating areas. The proposal was developed by a Planning and Zoning Commission subcommittee as a way to revitalize downtown. "I feel there would be a big benefit to downtown to have these," said Howard Lathrop, chairman of the subcommittee.

Having surveyed several pop-up cafes in New York, Lathrop said he believes people in Westport would be attracted to outdoor dining. These cafes, he said, would be assembled in the warmer months and converted back into parking spaces in winter.

Logistically, Lathrop said pop-up cafes would be created along one-way streets such as Main Street, Church Lane, Taylor Place and Parker Harding Plaza. Along Main Street, he said these cafes would be ideal in front of restaurants such as Bobby Q's. Another ideal location is on Parker-Harding Plaza behind Acqua.

The proposal won support from Bob LeRose, owner of Bobby Q's and president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, who agreed it would be a good way to draw people downtown. However, Police Chief Al Fiore expressed concern about public safety risks — even though Lathrop said the seating areas would be surrounded by barriers of some sort, such as planters.

"We routinely hear traffic complaints from town residents and pedestrians that the roads are unsafe," Fiore said. "It only takes a moment to strike a pedestrian, and here we're inviting people to sit on the road and dine. It's one thing to hit a parked car, but to plow into a table of six — that's a disaster."

Resident David Royce agreed, saying he doesn't trust planters to protect people. Stephen Edward, director of public works, said these pop-up cafes might present challenges in street cleaning and garbage collection. Also, the question of whether these cafes would be open to anyone or be reserved for restaurant patrons came up during the discussion.

Agreeing more information was needed, the board suggested the subcommittee draft a concrete policy and return to the board later.

Would you dine at a pop-up cafe in downtown Westport? Do you think it's safe? Share with us below!

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