It may seem as if the village of Brookfield is jumping back and forth trying to figure out just how to help restaurants and bars in the village’s downtown as they continue to face limits from the state on indoor service.
But, while patrons of those establishments gave rave reviews to the village’s decision last year to close off half of the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard to vehicular traffic in order to expand outdoor dining into the street – and create something of a family party atmosphere – restaurants and bars are not the only businesses on the block.
Last year those business owners kept any criticism of the village’s attempt to help bars and restaurants navigate the pandemic at a minimum. Everyone was in the same boat and bars and restaurants were unable to offer much in the way of indoor service. Although it negatively impacted their businesses, the non-restaurant/bar places gave the street closures a thumbs up.
After a meeting with some business owners – almost all of them bars and restaurants – on March 1 it appeared there was a consensus to follow last year’s blueprint for expanded outdoor dining.
Then the non-restaurant/bar business weighed in with an unmistakable “not this year.” The loss of parking spaces near their businesses had made weekends losers in terms of business, they said, and with the state opening up indoor dining more and more, there was no longer such a pressing need to offer so much in the way of extra outdoor dining space.
The public sidewalks and new bump outs at the south end of the block (adjacent to two establishments) and mid-block (near some others) provided plenty of space for outdoor tables, they argued.
Business owners also complained that, as much as patrons liked a traffic-free atmosphere that allowed their children to roam free and provided adults some freedom of movement as well, there were downsides.
Non-restaurant and bar businesses would return to work Monday morning with beer bottles in their planters and messes on the sidewalks. Bikes left leaning against storefronts and blocking foot traffic were also a nuisance. In one instance, parents reportedly got angry at a business owner when their children were asked not to sit on the business’ front stoop, blocking the entry.
We think that a lot of people were content to give people a lot of leeway last year, especially last summer, which was as trying a time as we can remember. Weekends on Grand Boulevard in Brookfield were a time to blow off some of that pandemic steam.
The good news for all of those who enjoyed it last year, Brookfield will still create the festive atmosphere on Grand Boulevard this summer – one weekend a month, with live entertainment, if it’s allowed.
Non-restaurant/bar businesses are still making a sacrifice in support of their neighbors. Let’s make sure it’s as good an experience for those businesses as well.