NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Shutting down a whole street to make room for outdoor seating is not out of the realm of possibility, according to Norfolk City Manager Dr. Chip Filer.

Tuesday night during Norfolk City Council’s budget workshop, he revealed that in an effort to help businesses reopen in a manner that allows them to begin financial recovery while still adhering to the governor’s regulations, the city is launching “OpenNorfolk.”

The program is “a boots-on-the-ground small business assistance program that will ensure businesses throughout the city are able to open in a safe, socially-distanced manner and financially recover as quickly as possible,” according to city spokesperson Lori Crouch.

The “OpenNorfolk” team will:

  • Provide clear guidance to small business owners and a toolkit to help them expand into either their own outdoor space (parking lots and yards) or in the public right-of-way (sidewalks, parking spaces, etc.) on pedestrian commercial corridors.
  • Provide hands-on assistance to business owners who would like a small team of people to help them move their own furniture, provide outdoor furnishings, or build them a parklet or other temporary furnishings for outdoor dining.  

The city is using its Urban Design contract team and partnering with Andrew Howard, a national expert in tactical urbanism, and the founder of Team Better Block to help with logistics.

The city council would still have to approve any ordinance changes to make those changes possible.

Virginia ABC has already created an expedited approval process for outside dining areas as some businesses consider expanding their outdoor dining areas.

Phase 1 of Virginia’s reopening plan started Friday, May 15.

The entire Forward Virginia Phase 1 can be read in-depth online.

Visit the Norfolk website for more information.

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