NORFOLK – Norfolk Councilor Courtney Doyle said: “If we don’t hear it, we can’t fix it.”
Doyle was among city representatives at the Community Hospitality Partnership Meetup on July 11 hosted by the Starving Artist Cafe in Norfolk.
“Thank you for doing business in Norfolk…tell us where we can improve,” Doyle said. “We will never be perfect, but we strive.”
The informal get-togethers were started by Doyle and fellow board member Andria McClellan about three and a half years ago to bring restaurant and business owners together with the city to help ensure things go more smoothly for all. About two dozen attendees attended the meeting, both to meet business needs and to answer questions.
Security on Granby Street was a pressing issue and Doyle responded that the Improved Policing Strategy will bring more officers to city streets.
“Public safety is the number one priority, not just on Granby Street, but everywhere,” Doyle said. “The city is doing a really good job of meeting the needs…although there’s more to do on Granby Street, we’re not done.
With the pandemic-born Open Norfolk outdoor dining scheme set to end in late 2022, Paula Shea, Norfolk’s deputy planning director, said the city is launching the Norfolk Outdoor Spaces scheme. Shea said he learned from Open Norfolk that everyone wanted to find spaces outside to eat and do activities.
The new program will allow three types of “streateries,” referring to restaurants along the street: pop-ups, a 72-hour test; seasonal with a period of three months with two renewals; and three-year semi-permanent terms with no renewal cap. Shea also explained the “treatery” options: on the sidewalk against a building; on the sidewalk detached from the building; and in a designated parking space. A tiered fee structure, ranging from $6 per square foot to $14 per square foot, has been drafted and will be presented to City Council at the end of August.
All “streateries” will adhere to a uniform closing time of 10 p.m. with no smoking or vaping, Shea said. The city has earmarked funds for the Architects of Norfolk City Center Works Program to provide one-on-one assistance to establishments in finding the best way to design al fresco dining for their properties and how to navigate through the process, she said.
Susan Pollock-Hart, Norfolk’s current Planning Officer, explained the process for applying for Restaurant Zoning Certificates and Conditional Use Permits and stressed the importance of educating officials on the operational guidelines of their businesses.
“My staff and I will help you through this; it’s not as bad as it looks,” Pollock-Hart said.
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Ray Stoner, Norfolk’s parking manager, detailed the Top Deck parking program, a low-cost downtown alternative for restaurant and hotel employees. The program includes three parking lots: West Plume, Bank Street and Boush Street. Employees can park on the upper deck for $40 per month.
“We have about 160 spaces still available in this program and we would like to be able to sell them to people who are having difficulty parking,” Stoner said.
Aleea Slappy Wilson, Norfolk’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager, explained how her team looks not only at departments internally, but also externally at the advancement of businesses in the neighborhood.
“We want to do a great job of making sure minority and women-owned small businesses can do business in our city and – the other thing that’s really important to us – you can do business with our city. “Wilson said.
Lashawnda Williams Hall, Senior Economic Inclusion Officer/Business Navigator, explained how her new role was created with Norfolk business owners in mind.
“We want to make sure you have a good business experience with the city and have a primary point of contact…someone who can help you through any obstacles or challenges you may encounter along the way” , Hall said.
Sandra J. Pennecke, 757-652-5836, [email protected]