COOPER: Where’s the Data on Outdoor Dining?

Submitted by John Cooper, Greenwich

To The Editor:

I’d like to respond to an article in the Greenwich Free Press, dated July 16, 2022, and titled “Selectmen Discuss Request for Outdoor Retail ‘Nodes’ in Parking Spaces on Greenwich Ave”

Described or quoted in the article were the following statements:

First Selectman Fred Camillo said prior to the pandemic, the Selectmen were already considering outdoor dining as a way to enhance the experience in the Greenwich Avenue central business district.

At the time there were dozens of empty storefronts on the Avenue.

“People seem to love it,” Camillo said.

“If everybody wanted to go outside, there would be no parking spaces,” Camillo said referring to retailers. “If you want me to say, ‘Get rid of outdoor dining now,’ that would probably fail 90-10. I’m pretty sure about that one.”

These statements scream for clarification or additional comment.

Prior to the Pandemic, empty storefronts or not, whose experience needed enhancing? With historically limited parking that has prevented Greenwich residents from easily coming to the Avenue, how did a decision further frustrating a resident’s visit, arrive at near permanence without the full engagement of all pertinent town department, governmental representatives and the public?

If there were empty storefronts before the Pandemic, the move to dining outside had nothing to do with protecting restaurants from failing, but with fulfilling the vision of a single human being. Few if any of the empty storefronts were restaurants.

“People seem to love it,” is not a data driven statement. Which people, and from where? Where are the comments collected from those who hate it?

Accepting the bias inherent in choosing one group of merchants over another should make the whole thing moot – either everyone or no one.

‘Get rid of outdoor dining now,’ that would probably fail 90-10.‘ Who makes up the hundred being polled? Are they RTM members, and has the RTM ever had a say in a decision this huge? Shouldn’t a decision like this go to referendum? It’s a public street, maybe this should be a ballot initiative? Being ‘pretty sure’ is no way to run a town of 63,514 residents, expending a budget of $465MM. To everyone who reads this, please share it, and act on it.

Make your voice be heard.

Selectmen Discuss Request for Outdoor Retail “Nodes” in Parking Spaces on Greenwich Ave