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LAKEWOOD, Ohio (WJW) — Coronavirus guidelines for social distancing are forcing bars and restaurants to look for ways to create new space for outdoor dining.

The owner of LBM, a neighborhood cocktail bar on Madison Avenue in Lakewood, says the COVID-19 regulations have limited the number of customers he can accommodate inside, and he was intrigued by the idea of expanding outdoor seating, by converting parking spaces next to the bar on Lark Street into a dining area.

The space is known as a parklet, which are becoming more and more popular in urban settings.

“I love the idea, I think it’s a very modern approach to like these old infrastructure problems,” LBM owner Eric Ho told Fox 8.

LBM is the first business to apply for a parklet permit from the Lakewood Planning Commission. His proposal calls for blocking off the parking spaces with large concrete Jersey barriers, creating enough space for six four top tables.

“The plan that we’ve created with our architect, we will go back to a pre COVID-19 amount of seating available and plus the fact that it’s outdoors, that’s what the CDC recommends with greater air flow,” he said.

Lakewood City Councilman Jason Shachner is a big supporter of parklets. In May, Shachner proposed giving bars and restaurants more options to expand outdoor dining, and Lakewood’s Temporary Outdoor Dining Resolution opened the door for parklets, by loosening regulations for outdoor seating in parking lots and on sidewalks.

“Not all restaurants have parking lots or sidewalk space available so that’s why parklets became a part of the plan,” said Councilman Shachner. “We’re transitioning away from and we’re taking back our streets from cars and giving them back to people because people live in cities.”

The city of Lakewood is receiving feedback about the parklet plan and not all of it is positive. Some residents have raised concern about the safety of diners sitting within each parklet in close proximity to traffic. But proponents believe the concrete barriers will provide ample protection, and they view parklets as the wave of the future for city dwellers.

“Things that are different and haven’t been tried in the city before, it gets a lot of pushback because it’s new,” said Councilman Shachner.

Each request for a parklet permit must be approved by the Lakewood Planning Commission. Councilman Shachner says the question of whether the concrete barriers will be paid for by the city or the business owners has not yet been decided.

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