Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
Local business owners are getting creative to continue operating now that Governor Roy Cooper has extended Phase 2 – limited capacity for customers and altering requirements to open – through Aug. 7.
Brett Murphy, owner of Root + Barrel Kitchen approached the Franklin Town Council last week asking permission to expand their outdoor seating options, to be able to serve more customers safely during COVID19.
Murphy said the restaurant would like to be able to add 40 more seats in the alley, which would mean an additional 20 seats during the 50 percent capacity COVID-19 orders. Normal full capacity inside is 150, Murphy said, and under the governor’s orders, the restaurant is permitted to operated at 50 percent capacity. ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Commission) regulations would also require Root + Barrel to put up some sort of barrier around the outdoor seating to be able to serve alcohol.
“We’d like to clean it up and do some landscaping buffers between the sidewalk and the seating area,” he said.
The request was made to the town of Franklin because the piece of property Murphy is asking to expand on belongs to the town. Murphy proposed a lease on the small parcel to allow for outdoor seating.
“We’re looking for at least a three- to 10-year lease because we’re looking at investing $20,000 into the project,” he said.
Murphy said preferably, the idea would be to install a concrete pad for the outdoor patio seating, but said the restaurant had alternative plans to just use gravel if the town didn’t approve the concrete installation.
Supporting the request, Council member David Culpepper referred to the recently approved Comprehensive Plan, which specifically suggest the town look at ways to utilize alley ways and additional space for outdoor seating for local businesses.
Mayor Bob Scott, however, said he didn’t believe the area Murphy was asking about qualified as an alley way. Scott shared his concern regarding the proposition and also said that he didn’t want to see another issue like the town had with the restaurant when it was named “The Bowery” when a piece of sidewalk had to be installed around the same area.
Members of the Franklin Board were unhappy with owners of The Bowery Restaurant in 2015 when they installed a side entrance between the buildings without getting prior approval from the town.
Murphy said that the improvements to the parcel in question would be at the expense of the restaurant and would allow for extra seating for customers, similar to what the town approved for Rockin’ Rollie Pollie’s restaurant which has installed temporary seating on the sidewalk in front of their business.
The town asked Murphy to develop a specific plan and return to the board in August.