After expanding outdoor dining last month to help restaurants impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, Lancaster city officials are trying to do the same for retailers.
Lancaster City Council will review an ordinance Tuesday, July 14, that would make it easier for retailers to set up shop outside, either in front of their stores, at an adjacent property or anywhere else they have permission.
The ordinance also has a provision for the designation of “public retail areas.”
While some Lancaster retailers said they welcomed the initiative, they were uncertain about the benefits — and security requirements — of al fresco shopping.
“I appreciate the idea that they're trying to come up with other options, but I'm not sure that's going to help,” said Jodi Pabon, owner of Scarlet Willow, who said setting up outside her small antiques shop at 320 N. Queen St. would require extra staffing. “Theft is a problem inside my shop, when I'm watching.”
Several other Lancaster retailers expressed similar sentiments.
“To be outside, I'd have to either hire another person to cover it, or I'd have to close the inside, which doesn't make sense for my business and I wouldn't expect it to be financially beneficial on a regular basis,” said Kristin Snyder, owner of Sophie Stargazer Boutique at 323 N. Queen St.
Yet Rebecca Addington, owner of Ville + Rue at 101 N. Queen St., said she thought there was some potential benefit for her furniture store.
“I think it's a great idea,” she said.
Jess King, chief of staff for the Lancaster city mayor, said the proposed permits would be limited to existing retailers. She said the initiative came about because of some requests and discussions with merchants that followed the expansion of outdoor dining for restaurants.
Marshall Snively, president of the Lancaster City Alliance, said he has discussed the proposal with city officials and believes it could be especially helpful to small shop owners, even as he understands some of the possible limitations.
“There has been a lot of emphasis on the restaurant community and we and the city know that our retailers have and continue to struggle as well,” Snively said. “The goal is to afford the same opportunities to them that has been offered to restaurants by allowing retailers to expand their foot print.”