Outdoor Dining Returning to New Brunswick's George Street With Public Seating, More Programming

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Outdoor dining on George Street is returning with a beefed-up schedule of programming and newly created areas set aside for passersby to sit.

The City Council voted at Wednesday’s meeting to close the road to traffic starting Thursday (today). Officials said, however, it was doubtful that plans would be in place for Ordinance O52406 to immediately go into effect.

Once closed, though, City Center’s main thoroughfare will be turned into a pedestrian plaza through Sept. 1.

Pam Stefanek, executive director of City Market, the organization that oversees the marketing and promotions for more than 500 member businesses in downtown New Brunswick, said there will be public seating for the first time set aside between Paterson and Church streets and Church and Albany streets.

Stefanek said the public seating areas are “something the public has consistently asked for.”

She listed an array of planned programming for George Street, including live lunchtime music and mariachi music on Fridays. She also said there would be special promotions, including disco night, Latin night, swing night, trivia night, game night for kids, and Christmas in July.

Before the City Council unanimously voted to approve the closure of George Street to traffic, Councilman Matthew Ferguson said, “The calendar of programming they’ve drafted is very impressive, and I’m very encouraged that it’s going to be very vibrant for summer.”

New Brunswick, like many other towns across New Jersey, began allowing restaurants to use sidewalks and streets in 2020 after COVID-19 regulations set limitations on indoor seating.

Although the pandemic eventually relented, outdoor dining has remained a permanent part of several downtowns.

Most recently, the City Council voted last spring to close a three-block portion of George Street from May 21-Nov. 5, 2023.

New Brunswick is also considering four wider-scope conceptual plans created by DMR Architects, which was commissioned by City Market in cooperation with City Hall.

A conceptual plan to create 18-foot sidewalks and a 24-foot spine down George Street for outdoor dining and year-round activities is one of four being considered by the city.

Other options include making no changes to the two-lane street and its sidewalks, widening the sidewalks and creating one lane of traffic, and widening the sidewalks and creating one lane of traffic to be used only by buses and emergency vehicles.

City Council President Rebecca Escobar said there is no update on the plans, which were introduced earlier this year.

Resolution 062442, which was also approved by the City Council at Wednesday’s meeting, sets several guidelines for the temporary closure of George Street to traffic.

For instance, there’s a tiered application fee based on how much space a business wants to use on George Street, ranging from $100 for under 300 square feet to $400 for 900 square feet and above.

According to the resolution, businesses may utilize the space in front of their establishments up to the midpoint of the road. Business owners may request permission to utilize adjacent spaces that are not in use by their neighbors.

Also, cannabis dispensaries cannot sell their products outside their shops.

Story By: Chuck O'Donnell
Photo By: TAPinto New Brunswick File Photo