The City of Edmond has implemented a new policy allowing “streateries” in the community, and local restaurants have happily applied to add the new service. A streatery uses safely barricaded, on-street public parking adjacent to a business for outdoor seating and dining.
Streateries help businesses more safely institute social distancing practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new option is mainly concentrated in the downtown Edmond area where most on-street, public parking exists.
Kyle Callard, owner of The Mule restaurant and bar in Edmond, has been pleased with the public’s response to streateries.
“We’ve had guests waiting for patio tables while there were empty tables inside,” he said. “A lot of our community is still being cautious with COVID-19 and prefers the open-air dining. Another factor is Oklahoma Fall weather is perfect patio weather. We have been looking forward to this opportunity all summer.”
“It’s been well-received,” he said. “People like it, especially in the evening because of the shade from our Cafe 501 building. Just like all restaurants in Edmond, we appreciate customers coming to the restaurant. We’re here to make sure food is safely served.”
While the response to streateries has been positive, there is at least one challenge that business owners and customers will have to address, according to Casey Moore, director of marketing and public relations for the City of Edmond.
“The only challenge is people getting used to the idea of public parking spaces being used for purposes other than parking cars,” Moore said.
In response, Callard has informed customers about their parking options.
“On our Instagram and Facebook pages, we shared the map of downtown Edmond that marks all available public parking in the area,” he said. “We’re hoping this brings attention to the ample parking [available] for the whole downtown area. The map was provided by Visit Edmond.”
An additional challenge facing business owners has been securing restaurant patio tables and chairs.
“We [created] a streatery at Cafe 501, but it was hard to do it at all our restaurants because it’s hard to find tables and chairs,” he said. “Everyone is doing this across the country.”
Robert Black, owner of Cafe Evoke, turned in his application the day after the city council announced the new policy. He had to wait two weeks for his patio furniture to arrive before the restaurant could open its streatery.
Regardless of challenges, Black noted that streateries have also created a new experience for customers they appreciate during the pandemic.
“We were able to take advantage of a new feature in our point-of-sale system that allows contactless ordering,” he said. “Someone can sit down and order right from their phone, and we get the order in the kitchen or bar. [Streateries] are a great opportunity for small businesses, and we’re just grateful that the city council is letting us try this out.”
Echoing Black’s enthusiasm, Holloway plans to expand streateries at his other restaurants.
“Next year, our intent is to do Boulevard and Sparrow all the way down with the entire front done in streetscaping,” he said.
Callard even expressed interest in using streateries beyond next year.
“If it helps with business and makes guests feel more comfortable with dining out, I would definitely bring the issue to the city to extend patios March to October every year,” he said.
The city expects streateries will be operational for a minimum of eight weeks. Before submitting the plans, businesses are encouraged to meet with their neighbors to discuss the streatery. There are seven conditions for the streateries that help protect city streets from damage, maintain access to fire hydrants and storm drains, and protect parking spaces for those with disabilities. For full details on how a business can implement a streatery, visit http://edmondok.com/streatery.
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About Josh Watson
Josh Watson is a freelance writer, public relations consultant, and tenured associate professor of communication at Oklahoma Christian University. He advises OC’s student-run PR firm, Eagle PR, and the university’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter. Previously, he worked on award-winning state and national campaigns at McNeely Pigott & Fox in Nashville, one of the nation's top independent PR firms. Dr. Watson has helped his students earn numerous awards and recognitions, especially in national campaign competitions. His wife, Chara, teaches speech and theater at Oklahoma Christian Academy, where their four children attend.