City leaders approve street plan to allow maximum use for small businesses

Tuesday, May 19, 2020
News 12 at 6 O'Clock/NBC at 7

(Source: WRDW

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- A plan from city leaders to maximize the use of downtown streets has been approved to lend a hand to Augusta small businesses, even it's easier said than done.

It would only affect the downtown side streets, causing temporary closures of a few roads.

But cutting corners isn’t so bad when opportunities are just around the bend. But just at the corner of 8th and Ellis Street, cutting is what they’ve had to rely on.

"Pretty much reduced us down to about 20 percent of what we would normally do," Denise Tucker, owner of Humanitree House, said.

Juice bar and vegan cafe, Humanitree House, made a name for itself downtown because of the environment on the inside. So possibly shifting more dining outside brings mixed feelings.

“We do have some outside seating we can benefit from more if that’s an option," Tucker said. "But, you know, you’ve been inside of our space. Our space is an integral part of who we are and that’s a lot of what -- the aesthetics are what bring people down to Humanitree House."

Still, Tucker says she appreciates the option to extend their reach if it means more business stability.

“We just think it’s the right thing to do for businesses to try and help them out," District 7 Commissioner Sean Frantom said. "They’re trying to make ends meet during these difficult times. This is something that I think won’t be too much of a nuisance to shut down the street here."

It would mean 60-day closures of certain side streets downtown, allowing restaurants to place tables and chairs across roads, maximizing social distance and customer traffic.

However, a restaurant owner would be required to submit an application and an outdoor dining safety plan for eligibility.

“And I’m just hoping that this is kind of futuristic thinking and outside of the box thinking," Frantom said.

A survey by the mayor’s office reveals the majority of small businesses cite the greatest worry as long term revenue. The city wants this to alleviate a bit of the burden.

Especially for shops like Humanitree who have not even received assistance like the federal SBA loan.

“We just operate on faith, just one day at a time. That’s pretty much it," Tucker said.

“These are definitely different times, and we need to do what we can to support business owners," Frantom said.

This street plan only includes restaurants downtown. But if successful, they’ll look to restaurants across Augusta. Owners would need to submit requests to the city if they’re interested.

City leaders have approved to allow small businesses to expand their footprint into sidewalks/streets for the next 60 days due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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