Falmouth Public Library

The Main Street branch of the Falmouth Public Library.

The Board of Library Trustees held a special meeting Tuesday, May 19, to consider allowing picnic tables to be placed on a portion of the library lawn so that people could buy food at Main Street restaurants and eat there.

The board was in favor of the concept but will ask for specific proposals.

“Word has reached us that the business community along Main Street is interested in picnic tables being placed on one quarter of the library lawn reached by the crosswalks, which will be close to certain merchants,” board chairwoman Sylvia L. Szulkin said.

Assistant Town Manager Peter Johnson-Staub said that the idea to place picnic tables on a portion of the library lawn is an outgrowth of conversations among elected town officials, the chamber of commerce, and Main Street restaurant owners.

“There is a desire by the board of selectmen to see how to support the survival of local businesses and to expedite approval of outdoor seating to help restaurants,” Mr. Johnson-Staub told the board.

“Providing picnic tables for public use that would be a short walk to downtown restaurants would be a small gesture of support with no negative consequences for the library,” he said.

Citing library policy, Ms. Szulkin said that an application must be filed identifying a responsible party, someone who could be contacted if something goes wrong.

“The library wants to do its part, but we need a responsible party to fill out an application, which could be sent by email to that person, preferably from an organization such as the Falmouth Village Association, the chamber of commerce or the board of selectmen rather than a loose group of restaurateurs,” Ms. Szulkin said.

Library policy prohibits library grounds from being used for entrepreneurial purposes, Ms Szulkin said, and that any picnic tables placed on the library lawn would have to be open and available to the public rather than for private entities or exclusive use.

“This does not mean that patrons of local businesses could not use the tables, but they couldn’t post the names of their businesses there,” she said.

The picnic tables, Mr. Johnson-Staub said, would be placed as close to Main Street as possible and restaurants would not conduct any business on the library lawn or fill alcohol orders there.

The town would place more trash containers in the area and take responsibility for cleaning, which would involved the parks department.

Mr. Johnson-Staub did not foresee needing a larger police presence. “Main Street has a good police presence,” he said.

To determine exactly where the tables would be placed and how many, Mr. Johnson-Staub expects to have a dialogue between restaurant owners and the chamber of commerce to get their perspective.

“This whole thing is an experiment,” Mr. Johnson-Staub said. “If it doesn’t work, the tables would be removed. There would be no contract requiring that they stay.”

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