Parklets could help Dallas restaurants seat more people while social distancing

A little more than a week after Texas restaurants were allowed a limited reopening.

North Texas business owners say customers are now testing the waters. There is one innovation that may help keep diners at a safe distance.

A little more than a week after businesses were allowed to reopen at 25 percent capacity, the recovery is slow.

“As soon as business bans went in place, we had a massive negative impact to our revenue stream,” said Shane Spillers, owner of Eno’s Pizza. “We had to furlough a number of our employees, unfortunately. Obviously, we hope to bring them back.”

Spillers reopened dining rooms at his pizza locations in Coppell and Forney, but he continues with patio seating and takeout in Bishop Arts, relying greatly on federal PPP funds.

“This is pushing us,” he said. “At the same time, I've seen a lot of innovation.”

One way Dallas businesses could immediately expand their capacity even under tight restrictions is through a concept called parklets which would allow seating where a parking space normally would be.

Jason Roberts owns Revelers Hall, as well as a nonprofit that is helping cities around the country understand the concept of parklets.

“Three tables six feet apart,” he explained while showing off a parklet. “With three at a table, I would get 9 people as opposed to a single car.”

Roberts' company built one for Dallas City Council members to see how it could work using a vacant valet spot.

“We are sitting in street right now,” he said. “But it does not feel like it because we have a robust wall.”

Dallas city staff is allowing temporary parklets that can be disassembled overnight.

As for the parking spaces used, for the first time in years, parking in Bishop Arts is not hard to find.