The Aurora Streatery experiment could last longer than initially thought if several restaurants decide they’ll be able to successfully install heat lamps in their allotted outdoor areas to combat the changing weather.
So far, the Streatery has been a popular addition to downtown Ithaca, drawing plenty of diners to the newly-closed block of North Aurora Street, where pedestrians can now walk in the asphalt street and restaurants can extend their eating areas to the curb in front of their storefronts. Other coronavirus-era restrictions are expected to be followed at the restaurants too, like masks for customers when they aren’t sitting and masks always worn by wait staffers.
Now, restaurants, hopeful to extend the outdoor seating season as the weather becomes chillier, have recently begun examining whether or not they’d be able to install heat lamps at the Streatery. This would, theoretically, enable the restaurants to continue operating their outdoor dining experiences, which have been crucial to enlivening the downtown dining scene over the last few months. It was first introduced in June as a way to allow restaurants to serve customers for sit-down dining despite the ongoing coronavirus, which had closed or limited service at every restaurant in the city. Similar plans for the 100 block of West State Street have never materialized, though they were under consideration.
The City of Ithaca has not publicly set an end date for the Streatery, at which time the block could be reopened for traffic again.
There are some hurdles to the plan, though, the largest being that state regulations are fairly strict regarding outdoor heat lamp installation. Ithaca Fire Department Chief Tom Parsons said he had been asked to provide some code information to businesses along Aurora Street, but that to his knowledge nobody has applied for any actual permits yet. The New York State Fire Code, provided by Parsons, does call for portable gas-powered heaters to not be within five feet of an entrance or exit to a building, as well as not within five feet of any awning or overhang. Those rules, among others, could make the plan infeasible for some businesses.
Monk’s on the Commons, the restaurant attached to the Marriott Hotel, has its own heat lamps already installed, but they are able to space them five feet apart from each other because of the amount of outside space they already occupy, and that its outdoor eating area is separate from the restaurant’s entrances.