Restaurants in downtown Conway will be allowed to set up tables and chairs for dining in street-side parking spaces under a new ordinance approved Monday.
"I think it will add visibility to a restaurant and its offerings," said Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy. "And I think it’s a matter of ambiance. People really enjoy being on the outside, taking in the scenery as they’re having a good meal."
The ordinance allows restaurants to set up dining areas - called parklets - along roadside parking spaces located on city roads with a speed limit of 25 mph or less within downtown Conway. State roads such as Third Avenue, Fourth Avenue and Main Street aren't included in the ordinance.
"A parklet is an extension of the public space, the sidewalk area, into the parking area," said City Administrator Adam Emrick. "It basically recaptures car space to use for pedestrian space."
The new rules require parklets to be raised at the same length as the sidewalk, take up no more than two car spaces, and be protected from traffic with barriers such as "planters, bollards, barriers, soft-hit posts, sidewalk bulb-out or other similar features."
Eating areas will also be surrounded by fencing, according to the ordinance. Applications must be approved by the community appearance board and and are good from July 1 through June 30 before a new application is required.
"It’s just a temporary thing that can be used for a while," said Blain-Bellamy. "It draws attention to having an outdoor dining experience which is preferred by many."
Emrick said the parklets would draw interest from people driving through Conway, and entice them to walk around downtown.
"If we can capture even a small percentage of tourists who drive through the City of Conway because they saw something interesting and wanted to see what it was, that’s a win," said Emrick. "And that’s what we’re trying to do, is keep adding little components here and there that are inexpensive, that don’t cause any major infrastructure projects to accomplish that goal."