Outdoor dining expansion coming to multiple restaurants in Southbury

A sign outside Calavera on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Oakland, Calif. The restaurant is open for takeout and outdoor dining at their patio.

A sign outside Calavera on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Oakland, Calif. The restaurant is open for takeout and outdoor dining at their patio.

Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle

Despite the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic this past year, Southbury Economic Development Director Kevin Bielmeier is “bullish” on the Southbury economy and one of the many reasons include the addition of patios to help bolster revenue for local restaurants at the Southbury Green at 775 Main St. South.

The construction of three outdoor patios received approval from the Southbury Zoning Commission earlier this month. Lucas Local Oyster Bar will use one of the patios and Chip’s Family Restaurant will use another.

The third patio will go unused for now with a nationally-known women’s athlete apparel store expected to move into the empty retail space adjacent to the patio. Bielmeier wasn’t at liberty to name the national retailer at this time. While the patio will be unused now, it would become usable if the new clothing store closes and a restaurant moves into the space.

“The addition of patios during this pandemic is vital to a restaurant’s survival,” Bielmeier said. “In today’s environment, with the pandemic, restaurants need outdoor dining. The thing is outdoor dining was becoming popular before the pandemic even came along.

“The three patios were part of a pre-pandemic plan involving an upgrade of the sewage septic system at Southbury Green. After much planning, the original plan included construction of the additional of the three patios.”

Bielmeier said the sewage system upgrade cost Regency Center several million dollars.

Vince Cappelletti, who owns Lucas Local Oyster, said having a patio is always a plus in the restaurant industry since it creates a separate environment for people to dine. Lucas Local Oyster will also serve as a dual restaurant for Cappelletti with Mission: Salad restaurant using the same kitchen as Lucas Local Oyster.

“This past summer at my other restaurants the impact of having increased patio size really helped us get through during COVID-19,” Cappelletti said. “I’m not sure how it’s going to impact us or not impact us as we’re coming to the end of the COVID-19 concerns. But if in fact it does continue past the summer, then it will help us to retain guests for as long as it is comfortable to sit outside.

“The patio is really only essential during COVID-19. And every restaurant owner I know, including myself, can’t wait for it to be over.”

Hugh Sullivan is the architect who designed the patios and made the pitch to the Southbury Zoning Commission at its recent meeting. The approval included the addition of lights for night use.

“These patios are unique for the Southbury Green neighborhood shopping center, which can now have restaurants with exterior dining areas,” Sullivan said “Overhead string lights were also approved over the exterior dining areas of the patios by the Zoning Commission. It is my estimate that the construction of these patios will be completed by April 15. They will be ready to use when the weather is appealing.”

Southbury First Selectman Jeffrey Manville is a huge supporter of outdoor dining.

“Giving the restaurants an opportunity for outdoor dining is important because they can use that added revenue,” Manville said. “I love restuarants with outside dining. People prefer to sit outside, especially in good weather. I believe outdoor dining will continue to be popular even after COVID-19.”