ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Old Town Alexandria was packed on Labor Day with folks taking advantage of the day’s beautiful weather and the outdoor seating options. The pandemic support guidelines that make outdoor options possible were set to expire in January, but on Thursday, the planning commission will consider extending them until April 2022.
“This is the time of year you want to live in Virginia,” diner Nicholas Barylski said. "You don’t want to live here in the summer: it's hot, it’s muggy, it’s a swamp. September through Christmas is the best time to live here, so why not extend it?"
Michael Doran, assistant general manager at O’Connell’s on King Street, said they didn’t know what to expect when the pandemic pushed them all outdoors. Many businesses haven't survived the storm, but others have weathered the many challenges COVID brought their way.
“The businesses are liking it more than we thought too,” Doran said. 'At first, it was split at the beginning -- some people were for it, some people were against it. Now it’s something we all bought into, so we embraced it, we adapted and this place is just thriving actually. The atmosphere and the vibe out here are something Alexandria has been looking for, for a while."
The extension would allow businesses to use parking spaces for curbside pick-up or delivery vehicles, restaurants and retailers to extend to nearby sidewalks and parking lots, and gyms to offer outdoor fitness classes in more spaces.
“I work at a restaurant in Del Ray and we really expanded outdoor seating with the city’s permission,” Lisa Herold said. "Being able to utilize driveway seating for the outdoor space. It’s going to allow businesses to stay open ultimately."
The Commission is also expected to meet with the City Council in October to discuss making these changes permanent.