Amherst transforming downtown for outdoor dining

  • Ann Tweedy, who is the marketing director for Amherst Business Improvement District, stands beside boxes containing thousands of gloves, hand sanitizer and masks, Thursday, June 25, 2020 in the BID office on South Pleasant Street. The items will be distributed free to Amherst businesses to help them handle the pandemic. The supplies were provided by the Downtown Amherst Foundation. BID and the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce oversee the foundation. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Robert Mora, right, who is the building commissioner for Amherst, directs the placement of tables as Gabrielle Gould, the executive director of Amherst BID, holds a measuring tape as they prepare for outdoor dining, Friday, June 26, 2020 on North Pleasant Street. Tenzin Soepa, of MoMo Tibetan Restaurant, looks on. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Signs on the windows of businesses on North Pleasant Street in Amherst, Friday, June 26, 2020 are part of a welcome-back campaign to make sure people understand that businesses are open and restaurants are ready to serve patrons. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Phurbu Dolma, left, John Page and Tenzin Soepa set up a tent in front of MoMo Tibetan Restaurant, Friday, June 26, 2020 to prepare for outdoor dining on North Pleasant Street in Amherst. Page is the membership and marketing manager for the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Concrete barriers on North Pleasant Street in Amherst, Friday, June 26, 2020 bear the words "I Amherst", a welcome-back campaign to make sure people understand that businesses are open and restaurants are ready to serve patrons. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tenzin Soepa, from left, Phurbu Dolma and John Page set up a tent in front of MoMo Tibetan Restaurant, Friday, June 26, 2020 to prepare for outdoor dining on North Pleasant Street in Amherst. Page is the membership and marketing manager for the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Concrete barriers on North Pleasant Street in Amherst, Friday, June 26, 2020 bear the words "I Amherst", a welcome-back campaign to make sure people understand that businesses are open and restaurants are ready to serve patrons. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tenzin Soepa, from left, Phurbu Dolma and John Page set up a tent in front of MoMo Tibetan Restaurant, Friday, June 26, 2020 to prepare for outdoor dining on North Pleasant Street in Amherst. Page is the membership and marketing manager for the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/27/2020 6:49:08 PM

AMHERST — A welcome-back campaign aimed at getting people to safely return to restaurants and stores is being launched by business leaders in Amherst.

Throughout downtown Amherst, Jersey barriers have been put in place by the Department of Public Works on North Pleasant and Amity streets to create outdoor dining patios for restaurants.

Many of these concrete barricades are now painted yellow, with the phrase “I Amherst” written on them, to publicize the joint efforts of the Amherst Business Improvement District and Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, and work by town officials and employees, to get businesses functioning again.

Amherst BID Executive Director Gabrielle Gould, who was out recently with colleagues to paint the barriers, credits the town for being responsive to the needs of businesses. Already, the closing of part of the main streets downtown has allowed many of the 14 restaurants now offering outdoor dining to set up tables and chairs, and she anticipates that within another week at least half of the 47 restaurants will resume service.

“We hope to have at least half open by July 4,” Gould said.

Gould said there has been a quick turnaround both for both getting revised site plans for the new outdoor areas approved and having permits adjusted by the License Commission, which regulates alcohol and food service.

The organizations also got $10,000 from the Solomon Foundation in Boston to buy umbrellas, plantings and other items to spruce up the outdoor dining, expected to be a component of business plans for summer and fall.

“The focus is on getting the outdoor setting that is comfortable,” Gould said.

The “I Amherst” is a a welcome-back campaign to make sure people understand that businesses are open and restaurants are ready to serve patrons, Gould said.

In addition to painting the barriers bright yellow, banners will be hung from light posts that include phrases such as “I Am Strong,” “I Am Resilient,” and “I Am Considerate.”

Signs, including one reading “Welcome Back” and another with the “I Amherst” logo, are being distributed to businesses to put up in their windows and doors. One has information about stopping the spread of COVID-19, encouraging people to wash hands, wear masks and stay 6 feet apart. 

Gould said she understands that there are more needs, and to that end $20,000 worth of thousands of masks and gloves and gallons of hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies will be distributed to all businesses. Dozens of boxes are packed into the Amherst Visitors Information Center. These items will be divided and delivered.

“We’re basically making care packages for them,” Gould said. 

In addition, to help businesses get back on their feet and resume operations, the business leaders are near announcing the second round of resiliency microgrants from the Downtown Amherst Foundation.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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