Updated: Feb 7, 2022
In the category of ORGANIZATION, Best Economic Recovery Initiative, an Award of Merit is presented to: the City of Morganton Main Street Program for the COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Strategy.
The City of Morganton’s COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Strategy allows businesses to expand onto sidewalks, creates shared outdoor spaces as strEATERIES and parklets, and permits business operations to extend further into the street during designated times. The City allocated $14,000 to maximize outdoor space for businesses to provide safe areas for downtown customers.
Within four hours of indoor dining being closed throughout North Carolina in March 2020, the City of Morganton Main Street Office, in collaboration with City Public Safety and Geographic Information Systems staff and local business Wendy B’s, had created and placed signs designating curbside pickup locations outside of 20 downtown restaurants and had posted a map online showing the sites. The immediate response allowed for restaurants to transition quickly from indoor dining to takeout and delivery only, which, in turn, allowed them to maintain a level of cash flow.
Once restaurants opened with limited indoor dining operations, reduced by almost two-thirds to meet social distancing requirements, it became apparent that customers were more comfortable dining outside. The Main Street Office worked with City Council to approve the closing of a portion of a street and parking spaces to expand outdoor dining.
The installation of curbside pickup areas, parklets, and the Streatery ensured that restaurants could maintain some level of business during the shutdown and phased re-openings. While downtown Morganton still has fewer customers than it did pre-COVID, the project was able to boost sales and retain businesses that may have otherwise closed permanently. In addition, having outdoor dining in front of businesses created a positive atmosphere that has increased downtown’s vibrancy. Testimonials from downtown businesses have conveyed that customers feel safer outside and that the improvements helped businesses make up significant revenue that would have been lost without the City’s COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Strategy.