The city of College Park is transforming several parking spaces along its thriving restaurant row on Main Street into an outdoor dining area. The “College Parklet” initiative turns nearly 100 feet of parking (seven spaces) in front of the Real Milk and Honey, Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen and Bar, and Johnny’s Chicken and Waffles into full-service patios.
The parklet features a ceramic-tiled, floating metal platform cordoned off from the street and traffic by large planters and fencing equipped with safety reflectors and string lights. Color-coded chairs with tables seating up to four people indicate the dining area for each restaurant in the parklet — yellow for Real Milk and Honey, blue for Virgil’s, and red for Johnny’s.
A private and publicly funded effort by the city and the College Park Main Street Association began in earnest last June during the height of the COVID-19 summer surge. The Main Street Association committed to donating $10,000 for the parklet, with College Park committing to an additional $25,000. So far, the initiative has raised over $52,000 toward keeping the pilot program going long term, with hopes of providing more outdoor dining spaces in the parklet for other Main Street restaurants.
“With COVID still among us, the addition of the outdoor space allows us to accommodate our customers while keeping them safe and abiding by guidelines set by the CDC,” Johnny’s Chicken and Waffles says in a prepared statement.
Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen owners Juan and Gee Smalls say the new outdoor seating area could also help the restaurant earn an additional $300,000 annually and cut down on wait times.
Last December, the Atlanta City Council unanimously approved an ordinance permitting restaurants and bars to offer seating on city streets to “provide safe, socially distant outdoor dining spaces.” The ordinance led to the launch of a temporary parklet grant program, which allows restaurants to expand outdoor seating into parking spaces in front of or adjacent to the establishment through the end of 2021. City of Atlanta covers the costs of the necessary building materials and installation of the parklet. Restaurants supply all of the tables and chairs.
“Parklets designed to last more than a couple of months typically cost anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 or more,” Emily Chan told Eater in March. “This grant is a game changer for our business, allowing safe dining outside.”
Last year, Decatur, Marietta, and Dunwoody became the latest metro Atlanta cities to establish entertainment districts with open container policies, permitting restaurants and bars to sell to-go cocktails and other alcoholic beverages.