By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Oct. 11, 2018) The Berlin Historic District Commission last Wednesday delayed a decision on exterior alterations requested by The Globe restaurant on Gay Street so it could offer curbside pickup.
Restaurant owner Jennifer Dawicki said the operation would start small and be “a little bit of an experiment.”
Ideally, she said customers would order and pay online first, and then drive up to a side entrance to pick up their food. Dawicki said she did not want her employees to have to leave the building and be exposed to the elements.
According to a letter addressed to the commission and included in the meeting packet, “We would ask guests to approach via Gay Street, pull up to the side of the building, giving us access to the passenger side window of the vehicle. The only transaction we need to complete is placing the carryout order safety into the passenger seat … Guests do not need to exit the vehicle, staff do not need to step off the property.”
Dawicki said an online module is being built, but she did not have a “drop dead date” to start the service.
Planning Director Dave Engelhart said Public Works Director Jane Kreiter “had no problems, no reservations” and Police Chief Arnold Downing told him, “As long as … they’re coming north on Gay Street … and the food is being handed in the passenger side window,” he also had no issues.
Commission member Laura Stearns, however, did have some misgivings.
“I think it’s too much traffic,” Stearns said. “What happens when the food isn’t ready on time?
“I just think that that is a really busy corner … and we have parking problems as it is,” she added.
Stearns, a manager at the Atlantic Hotel, also worried drivers would be crossing through the hotel parking lot.
She said chain restaurants like Carrabba’s and Outback Steakhouse had similar operations – ordering and paying online for pickup – but had dedicated parking spaces for carryout.
“I think that would be helpful, if you had a designated [parking space],” Stearns said.
Part of the issue is the road size, which commission member Mary Moore noted was originally made for horses and carriages.
Engelhart later said if the roads were rebuilt today, they would need to be one-and-a-half times larger to meet code.
“The Globe does not have any designated parking spaces,” Dawicki said. “We have the parking behind the end of the building, that could be designated as parking spaces.”
She added three, or perhaps four spaces could be established, however, “If I … designate a parking lot behind my building, I don’t need to build a structure.”
Commission member Norman Bunting said online ordering for carryout was “the new wave” for many businesses and worried allowing The Globe to do so would set a precedent in the town.
“Once we do this, we can’t take it back … this is the one time we have to figure out if this will work there,” Stearns said.
“I don’t mean you any disrespect, but I don’t know who decides whether or not [she is allowed to operate that type of business],” Dawicki said, adding if it is not allowed she would like to know. “I don’t want to go any further or invest anything else unless I know that there’s a good shot and an opportunity to try.”
Bunting then doubled back.
“She’s asking us to approve a building,” he said. What she wants to do with it is up to her … we’re here to figure out if what you want to put outside the building fits with the historical nature of the building and our community.”
Several commission members asked for more specifics on the type of structure and Dawicki agreed to come back with that information next month.
“Thank you Jen, for understanding our concerns. And we understand yours, I believe,” committee Chairwoman Carol Rose said.
Downing, reached for comment last Thursday, said he is concerned about how the flow of traffic would work – if it were to be a traditional drive-through.
“At a traditional drive-through, you would have to go across the traffic and you go up [to the window] in that way, and it has a short space to the intersection,” he said.
“Anywhere where you have people stopping and going is going to add to the question marks of the street. It’s going to be a bit more difficult,” he continued, adding, “I haven’t seen any plans.”
Downing said the street isnot exactly a problem area, in terms of traffic accidents.
“When you look at the side streets, that’s not going to be one where … we have a lot of accidents – it’s not even close to it. It’s not one where we have a whole lot of traffic, either.”