Diner’s New Outdoor Seating Draws Spirited Discussion On Social Media

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Discussion ignited in an Athens County community Facebook group after a photo of Union Street Diner’s new outdoor eating area was posted.

Earlier this month, the diner installed its “parklet,” which consists of several tables on an enclosed platform that occupies two parking spaces in front of the diner.

Cynthia Brunty, an Athens resident, isn’t confident Union Street Diner is a good location for this type of seating.

“It’s just, it comes out of a blind spot around that curve coming down that hill,” Brunty said. “It concerns me, and like I said, people travel too fast on that road. I’d like to say I totally support local business, and small businesses and the diner, but I just … wouldn’t eat there outside.”

Others who posted comments were excited about another opportunity to eat outside in Athens, expressing excitement and hopes that other businesses would offer a similar type of seating.

Jay Shapiro, an owner of Union Street Diner, said many of his customers have enjoyed the space so far.

“A lot of people wanted outside seating,” he said. “If you want to use the outside seating, go right ahead. If you do not want to use the outside seating, we understand how you feel. We welcome you inside.”

Shapiro said the city approved the permit quickly, and he followed all of the guidelines for safety and accessibility. 

As with parklets at other restaurants, Shapiro said his will only be open during a designated part of the year, as is required by the city’s regulations of outdoor dining parklets. 

Brenan’s Coffee Cafe was the first in town to add a parklet last July, and owner Josh Thomas said he and his wife were interested in a parklet before the pandemic. 

He said customers have been very happy with the outdoor seating so far. 

“My wife and I had been to New York City a couple times,” Thomas said. “On our last trip there, probably about three years ago, we actually sat in a parklet. We were just sitting in one, and realized this is a parking space we are sitting in. It’s something that we wanted to do pre-COVID. …  From the minute we put it out, we got a fantastic response from our customers.”

According to the city’s regulations, the parklets will be removed for the winter on the last day of September, and can return on the day after Ohio University’s graduation.