With looming restaurant and small business closures, it appears to me that there might be a way to soften some of the economic impact of COVID-19 and social distancing on these establishments.
Our restaurants and small retail businesses face fixed costs for staff, rent, utilities, etc. Following social distancing guidelines, the businesses can serve only a markedly reduced number of patrons.
Under these conditions the owners can’t generate enough income to pay their fixed costs. And of course, Scottsdale tax revenue is reduced.
What if the Transportation Department staff and the police department review areas of the city, especially the downtown district, and determine where concentrations of restaurants and small boutiques are located?
With this information they can select streets which could be closed and converted into temporary pedestrian malls on perhaps Friday and Saturday evenings beginning at 6 or 7 p.m. With the streets blocked off the restaurants and boutiques could move tables onto the sidewalks and parts of the streets to allow social distancing and significantly increase the number of patrons they serve.
Outdoor music might be a nice addition to enhance the experience. Kiosks could be stationed at each end of the blocked street(s) selling/distributing masks and hand sanitizer. If deemed necessary a temperature monitoring station could be included.
In areas of the city where the restaurants are less dense, the establishment would still be allowed to expand onto the adjacent sidewalk as long as it does not impede foot traffic and does not violate social distancing guidelines.
I realize that this is not perfect and there are some inconveniences to the patrons, but I feel that there is a pent-up desire for our citizens to get out and socialize within safe limits.
The city needs to be ready for this demand.
City Council and staff should consider this idea or some similar version. The payback will be grateful citizens, economic improvement for our businesses, and generation of more tax revenue.
Once COVID-19 has come under control, this program would end. I believe this would help ease these painful times.
Editor’s Note: Betty Janik is a Scottsdale resident and candidate for Scottsdale City Council.