As Restaurant Reopening Looms, NH City Gets Creative With Outdoor Dining

New Hampshire safety regulations call for tables to be outside and at least six feet apart, so the city is now allowing restaurants to serve customers in private parking lots and even on sidewalks

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Starting Monday, restaurants in New Hampshire can open to diners -- but only for outdoor seating.

Officials in Manchester are getting creative to allow restaurants the opportunity to serve more customers even if their regular outdoor seating area is limited.

“It’s unlike anything we’ve ever gone through,” said Adam Dickie, who we met outside Cactus Jack’s on South Willow Street.

Dickie is the managing operator at the southwestern restaurant, but on Wednesday he had a different title.

“Yes, tent setter upper,” he said laughing.

It’s actually an exciting new role as the restaurant looks forward to welcoming customers back for outdoor dining on Monday.

“They’re buzzing, they’re ready to get back here,” Dickie said.

Restaurants along New Hampshire's seacoast are preparing for the next phase of the state's reopening, one that will allow them to serve customers outdoors.

With state safety regulations calling for tables to be at least six feet apart, the small Cactus Jack cantina is limited to only 35 seats.

To help restaurants maximize seating capacity while maintaining social distancing, the city is now allowing them to serve customers in private parking lots and even on sidewalks.

“Us being able to add the tent adds 48 more seats,” Dickie explained. “We’re definitely excited about that.”

And having more customers means more furloughed employees can finally get back to work.

“We will bring back all of our employees. That’s our number one goal, to keep all of our employees on staff,” Dickie said.

He is expecting there to be a wait for outdoor tables all next week. He says customers will wait in their cars until they get a text that their table is ready. 

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig said the city is still considering whether or not to shut down Elm Street to vehicle traffic to allow more room for people to dine outside. 

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