Derry Town Council supports outdoor dining, gets virus updates

TIM JEAN/Staff photoLorraine Butler, left, of Derry, is waited on by Christina Andreoli, manager at MaryAnn's Diner in downtown Derry. Patrons must make a reservation to be served outside, but they also offer take-out because of the coronavirus crisis. The town is putting efforts in place to support local restaurants wanting to do outdoor seating.

DERRY — The Town Council faced an agenda at its meeting June 2, dealing with COVID-19 updates, outdoor dining, and how the town would move forward with recreation programs and activities this summer.

Councilors got a recent COVID-19 update from fire Chief Michael Gagnon, a regular part of council meetings during the past few weeks, with the top fire official offering numbers, statistics and general information on how the community is faring during the pandemic.

"Not a lot has changed since the last time," Gagnon reported, adding the department continues to work with local businesses that are reopening under state guidelines and making sure things are handled safely.

Gagnon also credited the town staff and Municipal Center for the manner in which town business has been conducted over the past few months with the building closed to the public.

Although town staff has remained on site, Gagnon said the Municipal Center's drive-through window has been working "fabulous."

The chief also reported no fire staff were currently in quarantine, call volume is still down, but at the police department, the number of calls is ticking up a bit more.

Gagnon urged the public to remain vigilant.

"The COVID risk in this area is still there, it's still alive and well," Gagnon said, adding people should continue to take steps to minimize community transmission moving forward.

In other council business:

Councilors supported efforts for the town's businesses who are putting outdoor dining efforts in place, agreeing to create a new article within town rules to allow local restaurants to offer outdoor seating areas within the public right of way (sidewalks).

The Outdoor Dining Ordinance allows restaurants to establish outdoor dining areas now through Oct. 15. Businesses apply for the permit that then goes through various departments prior to approval.

The Tupelo Music Hall has obtained its permit for outdoor dining in a specifically constructed tent area at the property at 10A St. and begins serving food and drinks June 12. The outdoor food service tent includes 26 tables and waitstaff serving up food with safe distancing practices in mind. Other restaurants offering outdoor dining space include Cask and Vine and MaryAnn's Diner on Broadway, and Amphora at Hood Commons.

In addition, councilors also agreed to support changes to the town's health ordinance, adding a new provision to allow optional dog-friendly regulations to outdoor seating. Derry is now the third community in the state, according to Town Administrator David Caron, to have a dog-friendly ordinance.

Dogs frequenting local businesses under this rule would be required to be leashed and owners can bring no more than two dogs to an outdoor dining area.

Councilors also got updates on the summer view of recreation in Derry and what will open and what will not. Public Works Director Michael Fowler gave an update on some programs and activities for this summer. Fowler said the town's Gallien's Beach at Beaver Lake is scheduled to open this month with safety guidelines and new rules in place due to the coronavirus pandemic. That includes possible reservations for those wanting to attend the beach, allowing only a certain number of residents, and other strict guidelines, including no concession stand and enhanced sanitation efforts including hand sanitizer, et cetera.

Fowler called the summer situation "very fluid" with changes possible as the months go on, but some other activities available include tennis, basketball and pickleball courts open and ready for use. Derry's dog park is also scheduled to open this month after some much-needed upgrades and improvements, Fowler said.

But the annual summer concert series in MacGregor Park will not happen this year, Fowler said, and the annual Fourth of July fireworks display may be postponed to later in the fall.

More updates can be found on the town's site at derrynh.org or call Parks and Recreation at 603-432-6136.

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