Downtown businesses are looking for a pandemic-era salvation. The key to the pearly gates? Parklets.
This is the third part of a multi-part series examining the need to increase outdoor space for businesses.
Two more dining parklets have popped up on High Street, in front of Gibbie’s Pub & Eatery and Almost Heaven Bar and Grill. While it may seem like the parklets appeared overnight, the project has been a labor of love long in the making. (Read more about it in parts one and two of this series.)
Tin 202 was the first downtown business to receive a dining parklet. That was in June, and co-owner Chris Evans says the business not only survived but thrived while other downtown businesses had to shutter their doors.
The parklet allowed the restaurant—mandated like all restaurants in the state to operate at 50 percent capacity indoors—to expand outside, where it’s served more than 100 customers a week. “We were up in sales from last June,” Evans says. “People were coming to us specifically because of the parklet.”
Ally Klinger, a manager at Gibbie’s, hopes the pub’s parklet will lead to something similar. Serving downtown Morgantown since 1987, Gibbie’s saw a decline in business due to the pandemic. “Parklets allow restaurants that wouldn’t otherwise have outdoor dining to pick up business a little,” she says.
Gibbie’s expects to fit four tables within the Jersey barriers that were loaned by March-Westin Company and installed last week. It will begin serving outdoors as soon as a platform is installed—that’s expected by the weekend.
“March-Westin is always looking for opportunities to support our community and locally owned small businesses,” says vice president of operations Jamie Ridgeway. “When the Mills Group approached us about donating the barriers downtown, we were excited to be part of solving the problem of outdoor dining for Morgantown restaurants.”
But the benefit goes beyond restaurants. It extends to retail, too. Adding outdoor dining will attract diners downtown, and diners can bring business to small shops like River Fair Trade, Tanner’s Alley Leather Design Studio, Hoot & Howl, and Retro-tique.
“I want to see parklets up and down the street,” Evans says. “My hope is they have the same success we’ve had.”