Outdoor dining is resuming in Falmouth, but not without its challenges.
As of the Falmouth select board meeting Monday, June 15, Town Manager Julian M. Suso had approved five outdoor dining applications, with a sixth pending receipt of a certificate of insurance from the applicant.
"In addition, there are 13 applications that are in the midst of staff and legal review as we speak, and that is underway today, and hopefully will be brought to closure in the next day or so," Mr. Suso said. "In addition, we have two additional ones that are missing some pieces of key information, and the applicants have been notified. We're asking that the missing information be dealt with so we can respond with our internal review."
When asked, Falmouth Health Agent Scott McGann said he had one concern about outdoor dining in town.
"My only thing is the state said six feet between tables, but somebody my size sitting back-to-back with someone else at tables six feet apart would be about touching the back of the person next to them. The idea should really be six feet between parties," he said.
Fire Chief Michael F. Small added a second concern, noting that while the department has not had any issues, he recommends careful placement of tables outside.
"What we're consistently recommending, for some of the places putting seating out in parking areas, and I don't have veto authority, but I'm strongly recommending as robust a barrier as possible between any vehicular traffic and potential seating areas," Chief Small said. "Some of the places I've come across are doing really well with Jersey barriers or some type of concrete barrier, but some are less than what I would call robust."
Police Chief Edward A. Dunne agreed about the need for barriers. He also spoke about outdoor alcohol service.
"I heard concerns this weekend about alcohol being served beyond the limits of the license and some situations like that, but we dealt with that with the owner of the business," Chief Dunne said.
While restaurants previously approved for outdoor dining could offer outdoor dining under their existing license, select board member Douglas C. Brown said some restaurants are serving beyond the area their license describes.
"Restaurants that do have existing outdoor seating seem to now be taking a little more latitude," he said. "Do we have any ability to offer them additional space or other alternatives other than crowding a sidewalk?"
Chairwoman Megan E. English Braga said those restaurants can apply for additional outdoor space for dining.
"Regardless of whether you have outdoor space that you can utilize, or if you want to add to that, or you don't have any and are trying to create that, that is what the permit is for. Put that plan together, go through that checklist, provide that information to the town and they will go through that," she said.
Select board member Douglas H. Jones said he has heard concerns about passageways and sidewalks being blocked by tables.
"Are you finding that to be the case, that people actually can't walk past the restaurants because the tables are in the way?" Mr. Jones asked.
Mr. Suso said most restaurant owners have been conscientious and cautious and have worked well with the town during the application process. However, there have been challenges.
"We've gotten a few emails about the fact that we had an insufficiently wide corridor maintained for the public to readily access sidewalks in a particular location. We interacted with the business regarding that, and that is still a work in progress," he said.
Ms. English Braga said she visited some restaurants to see these concerns up close.
"One concern is that space or that corridor, but tangentially related to that is what Scott is raising. Even if the corridor is there and people can get through, when people are eating their meals, they don't have masks on, because they're eating," she said.
She acknowledged that if the corridor is too narrow, people will feel uncomfortable walking past diners eating their meals without masks.
"It is not a surprise we have to work through this, as it is all new to everyone, but hopefully we can tweak what is potentially problematic and move forward," Ms. English Braga said. "Essentially, those complaints were about passage on the sidewalk."
Even with the community opening up, she reminded people that social distancing is still recommended and people should wear a mask when they cannot social distance.
Chief Dunne said lack of social distancing was demonstrated at a pop-up car show.
"We got some emails and some text messages about a pop-up car show that occurred in town, and the chief complaint on it was there was no social distancing and no masks. The lieutenant went and spoke to the organizer, and advised him also of the governor's order about groups larger than 10 gathering and social distancing, and they shut it down," he said.
The select board also heard from Recreation Director Joseph E. Olenick, who announced the cancellation of the Summer Adventure and Teen Extreme programs.
"My main concern, as [Assistant Town Manager Peter Johnson-Staub] said, is creating a great experience for the kids," Mr. Olenick said. "We play a lot of active sports games, with a lot of running around, and they were discouraging any of that. No games of soccer, no games of basketball, but puzzles and card games and solitaire. We just didn't feel that is worth what we usually do as a camp."
In addition, state restrictions would prevent the camp from offering field trips or activities such as the Mad Science show.
"It comes down to me what kind of experience could we actually give them compared to what they're used to, and we feel like we couldn't give them much of a fun time because they would have gone home and said, 'All we did today was watch a movie' or 'All we did was do a puzzle,' and that's not what we're about. We like to be fun and active," Mr. Olenick said.
Mr. Johnson-Staub said it looks like the Falmouth Recreation Department will be able to offer sailing and junior golf this summer. In addition, Mr. Olenick said, the department is working to create small-group programming blocks, including pickleball, basketball, volleyball, soccer, and outdoor arts and crafts.
"We want to make sure we have something. It is unfortunately a lot smaller than what we're used to doing, but we will have something out there and give people an option for some sort of an activity," he said.
The goal is to begin these programs on Monday, July 6.
"We really appreciate you trying to be creative and offer some sort of relief for parents, even if it is just for a small window, to be able to run some errands, and for the kids to be able to be outside and get some exercise," Ms. English Braga said.