MANCHESTER, NH – On Tuesday night, the Manchester Board of Aldermen made two decisions on requests to allow local restaurants to use city property with two divergent results.
The Aldermen voted to approve a request for the Stark Mill Brewery to place approximately 20 to 25 picnic tables on a city-owned green space under the Bridge Street Bridge and a nearby parking lot shortly after tabling a request from Penuche’s Music Hall to close Lowell Street from Elm Street to Nutfield Lane every Sunday from May 24 to the end of October.
Several members of the public came before the board to speak against Penuche’s request, including former Alderman Tim Baines.
Baines, owner of the nearby Mint Bistro on Elm Street, told the board that in past years the closure had been disruptive to several businesses nearby on Lowell Street and not a single abutter to Penuche’s was in favor of the request.
Ward 10 Alderman Bill Barry made the motion to table Penuche’s request and the vote was taken without discussion, although At-Large Alderman Joseph Kelly Levasseur simultaneously made a motion to receive and file the request, which was not heard by Mayor Joyce Craig during the virtual meeting.
There was discussion on the Stark Brewery request, focused largely on concerns from Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann.
For Hirschmann, the main concern came from fears that the request would violate guidelines issued under New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu’s emergency orders, with the request allowing a maximum of approximately 120 patrons.
Manchester Health Department Director Anna Thomas said the governor’s orders were limited to confined areas and there was no clear size limitations on restaurants serving customers outdoors.
Hirschmann felt that standard was hypocritical, stating that the Aldermen should meet once again at Manchester City Hall if that number of people could be allowed to congregate.
Mayor Joyce Craig reiterated Thomas’ point regarding the differences between indoor and outdoor congregation, also noting that in-person meetings could resume soon within a facility that allowed for more social distancing than City Hall. However, she also noted that meetings that took place in-person, but outside of City Hall could not be shown live on public television.
The request passed 13-1, with only Hirschmann voting in opposition.
Stark Mill Brewery will be able to use the tables from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays until Oct. 15, 2020, once they receive final approval from several city departments ensuring that the restaurant is set to follow social distancing and other safety protocols.
On the Penuche’s vote, Barry joined Ward 1 Alderman Kevin Cavanaugh, Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long, Ward 5 Alderman Anthony Sapienza, Ward 6 Alderman Elizabeth Moreau, Ward 11 Alderman Normand Gamache and At-Large Alderman Dan O’Neil in support of the tabling the request.
In opposition, Levasseur and Hirschmann were joined by Ward 2 Alderman Will Stewart, Ward 4 Alderman Jim Roy, Ward 8 Alderman Michael Porter, Ward 9 Alderman Barbara Shaw. Ward 7 Alderman Ross Terrio abstained from voting.