Restaurants know all too well the challenges of operating during a pandemic. Many still struggle daily to keep their doors open.
The City of McKinney is trying to ease the burden and has selected two restaurants in town to kick off a new parklet program. Local restaurant owners say it will tremendously expand their dining options.
Hugs Café is the dream of founder and president Ruth Thompson, whose vision was to create a non-profit Café that would be run and operated primarily by adults with special needs.
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“We celebrated five years in October being open,” said Thompson.
But just like other neighboring restaurants, it’s been a struggle safely getting people in the door during a pandemic.
“We are a very small café, anyway. Our footprint is very small. So even with 50-percent, I mean when they went up to 75%, that’s nice, but if you still got to distance, you now we still don’t have people,” said Thompson.
“We as well have a smaller restaurant, less than 2,000 square feet, so seating is already tight,” said Manny Casa, Owner of CT Provisions Cocktail Parlor & Kitchen.
The McKinney city council directed city staff to look at a parklet program that essentially allows a restaurant to use on-street parking, and turn it into an outdoor dining experience. The council passed an ordinance earlier this month authorizing the program giving small restaurant owners like Casa’s some relief.
“Just helps with our revenue and being able to keep employees, and I just feel to stay afloat,” said Casa. “50% is a big deal when you have 13 tables, 14 tables.”
“Outdoor dining has become such a wonderful thing for these restaurants,” said McKinney Assistant Manager, Kim Flom. “And in our historic downtown, we don’t always have all this space for them to have outdoor dining.”
Flom says often the cost is a barrier for a lot of restaurants, anywhere from $10 to $40,000. The city was able to use Cares Act money to buy two parklets of their own.
“These are two modular parklets that are owned by the city, that we can make available to our local restaurants,” said Flom.
“This is going to be tremendous for us,” said Thompson.
“We’re extremely excited and happy to be considered,” said Casa.
There are several businesses in downtown McKinney that have shown interest in the parklet program. Any business, including retailers who have the ability and interest in a parklet is encouraged to apply for one with the city.