Beaufort attempts to boost restaurants with outdoor dining space

From left, Jenny and David Hartman of Danville, Va., enjoy a dinner from Ribeyes Steakhouse in downtown Beaufort on the tailgate of their truck parked along Front Street May 12. The town has since set up an outdoor dining space in the west Front Street parking lot in a bid to support downtown establishments while restaurants are restricted to take-out and delivery only. (Jackie Starkey photo)

BEAUFORT — In an effort to encourage business for local restaurants, Beaufort commissioners have provided an outdoor dining space for take-out patrons in the downtown area.

The move comes as North Carolina moves through the first phase of reopening following restrictions imposed in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Currently, restaurants and bars are restricted to take-out and delivery services only.

Last week, the town set up six tables in the west public parking lot on Front Street to accommodate the take-out patrons of downtown restaurants. The dining space is available only when restaurants are open, Town Manager John Day said Monday. 

“I am told (the space) was well used this weekend,” he noted.

Town commissioners, at their May 11 virtual meeting, charged staff with working with downtown restaurant owners to establish the details of the outdoor dining space.

“The bonus to other businesses that do not serve food would be the enticement to shop while in the area,” said Commissioner Marianna Hollinshed, who brought the idea before the board.

Mr. Day said barriers were erected between the tables and the rest of the parking lot and the town provided trash receptacles for patrons to use. Restaurant workers are responsible for checking for trash every half hour.

As part of the unanimous approval from commissioners, the town has waived some alcohol restrictions for the parking area. Mr. Day said businesses with off-premises sales permits can sell beer and wine to customers, who can open and consume the drinks in the dining area.

Town leaders said they wanted to support restaurants as more tourists come to town and more opportunity arises to recoup losses incurred due the shutdown. 

Monday, Mayor Rett Newton called the setup a “small but important step” as visitors flock to Beaufort, especially the downtown area.

“We had a greater number of visitors this past weekend. Some visitors were social distancing and using protective measures but unfortunately, some were not,” the mayor said in an email. “COVID-19 remains a substantial threat and this is not the time to let our guard down. We need everyone to continue to social distance, wash their hands, and when in stores use a mask as a protective measure.”

During the May 11 meeting, Mayor Newton stressed the town’s intent to protect its vulnerable and elderly residents. He urged visitors and residents to not let “irresponsible actions jeopardize the opportunity to go into” Gov. Roy Cooper’s phase two reopening, set for the end of this week.


Contact Jackie Starkey at 252-726-7081, ext. 225; email; or follow on Twitter @jackieccnt.

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