GREENWICH, CT — Outdoor dining in Greenwich this year will cost eateries more money and end sooner, according to the 2024 guidelines approved by the Board of Selectmen earlier this week.

The popular initiative that was borne out of the COVID-19 pandemic will begin again on April 1 and run through Nov. 3, instead of later in the month.

First Selectman Fred Camillo said the town reevaluates the guidelines each year and makes adjustments based on how the previous season went.

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“The last couple of years we noticed that early November [restaurants] started to take things down themselves. In anticipation of the holidays, we figured let’s end it early November and see,” Camillo said.

In cases when November trends warmer, Camillo said the town will reconsider the end date.

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The parking fee per stall for restaurants this year is $2,232, up from $1,592 in 2023. The amount was updated to reflect the new parking rate of $1.50 per hour for a parking stall.

Fees for traffic barriers will also increase to $29 per linear foot, up from $25, to better reflect operating expenses related to the installation and removal of the barriers.

New this year will be a contest to decorate the traditionally drab barriers.

Read: Greenwich Launches Outdoor Dining Barrier Design Competition

Overall, the average fee per restaurant to participate in outdoor dining in 2024 is estimated to be $8,001, documents submitted to the selectmen say.

In 2023, the average fee was $5,810, with 59 parking stalls on or near Greenwich Avenue occupied with outdoor dining.

Greenwich collected a total of $116,203 in fees from 20 restaurants last year. That dollar amount included $22,275 in barrier cost and $93,928 in parking stall revenue, according to submitted documents.

Selectwoman Lauren Rabin said that she received feedback over the last two weeks from some people who want outdoor dining to start closer to May. She also said she heard from residents who want to make sure outdoor dining is ADA-accessible.

“It is an art, not a science, to doing those things, especially given the topography of Greenwich Avenue,” said Greenwich Director of Planning Patrick LaRow on ADA accessibility. “We try to make sure everybody has the ability to sit outside, but sitting in the node specifically may not be something that can be done given all those circumstances I mentioned and others.”

Resident Alan Gunzburg, who also chairs the First Selectman’s Advisory Committee for People With Disabilities, took exception to LaRow’s comments.

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“It is a science, it’s not an art. There are regulations. It’s not a loosey-goosey thing we can make up here and there and say, ‘Whatever,'” Gunzburg said. “And if you can’t get an accessible node, why should we give you one? Why have one if it’s not accessible to everybody? I’m a little disappointed by all of that.”

Gunzburg also said he was concerned about tables being high enough for people in wheelchairs, and possible impediments, like tables and sandwich boards, on sidewalks that could block those in wheelchairs or people who are vision impaired from getting by.

LaRow followed up his earlier comments and said he “probably said something that was ineloquent.”

“We are not signing off on outdoor dining situations that don’t have ADA solutions to them,” LaRow said. “I agree with Mr. Gunzburg that access on the sidewalk is paramount, and it’s why it’s something we look at very closely.”

LaRow noted the town is “constantly trying to educate” the operators of outdoor dining about their responsibility and what the acceptable operating procedures are.

“We’re not feckless in the matter, but we are trying to set this up for success and not failure,” he said.

Downtown Greenwich resident Carin Ohnell suggested charging restaurants more for outdoor dining, especially because of Greenwich Avenue’s premier location.

She said charging more could help the town with enforcement of outdoor dining guidelines, and it would help with keeping the sidewalk and the street clean.

“We continuously look at what you’re saying, and we’ve increased those fees each year to the point where we’re not losing revenue for parking stalls, and we’ve increased the cost of the barriers,” Camillo said. ‘We’re going to keep looking at it and making it fair for everybody, while not discouraging outdoor dining. We don’t want to make it cost-prohibitive either. It’s a balance.”

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