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City to consider alley closure request from Stella A’s

LOCK HAVEN — City council will consider adopting a resolution that would close Sarah’s Alley for at least 90 days.

The closure was requested by Louis Anastos, owner of Stella A’s Bar & Grill. The downtown restaurant is located on one side of the alley, with the Strouse Law Firm sharing the other side. Anastos made the request to expand the restaurant’s outdoor dining to the city last week.

Anastos said he spoke with the landlords of both Stella A’s and the law firm who expressed their approval. He also discussed the proposal with the restaurant’s insurance company and a representative of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

“What we’re proposing to do is obviously clean the alley up, it’s about 1,100 square feet. Then we would string approximately 10 rows of lights in the alley… (and) purchase 10, four-top tables with 40 chairs. They would be spaced according to the state guidelines right now on social distancing,” Anastos told council Monday night.

He added that the restaurant would also place “black picket-like” fences on either side of the alley as well as plants and flowers to beautify the space and create curb appeal.

“It would all be temporary, they would all be removed at the end of the season,” he said.

This request comes after the restaurant saw some success during the pedestrian mall in 2020. Anastos estimated about 10 percent of customers ate indoors last summer, with the rest eating on the restaurant’s patio or out front of the business on the sidewalk.

“I just think this year is going to be bigger and better than last year because people have been cooped up due to the long winter and, of course, the coronavirus,” Anastos said.

During questions from members of council, Anastos also said he could add gates to the fences on either side to provide multiple exits.

Patrons would have to check in at the front door and hosts/hostesses would be policing the outside seating, he said.

Anastos noted that, if the Pedestrian Mall continues this summer, the restaurant would also take part, in addition to the alley.

City Manager Gregory Wilson told council the resolution would expire after 90 days and could only be renewed after it was reviewed.

“There is not a prohibition against renewing the 90 days. Prior to the 90 days council would have to make a review and determine how they would want to proceed forward,” he said. “You do have to look at it every 90 days and make that resolution again.”

Members of council offered positive comments about the proposal.

“This is just another example of forward thinking, trying to make the best of a bad situation,” councilmember Douglas Byerly said. “I would be fully in favor of it, I think the 90 days is the way to go and then either review it for an extra 90 days so they can do the entire summer for the period that Louis is looking for.”

Anastos said he proposed to council the alley be closed from May to October depending on the weather.

“I think this is a great idea,” councilmember Bill Mincer said. “but what if somebody else wants one of the alley’s that is more of a pedestrian walkway?”

Mayor Joel Long answered, saying council would need to judge each situation on a case-by-case basis.

“We have to judge each case on its own merit. You know, where Stella A’s is located has its benefits and its drawbacks. Somebody else might have the drawback that they may not be able to use the alley next to theirs because of how it’s used. They may have a benefit that Stella A’s doesn’t have,” he said.

Councilmember Steve Stevenson also expressed his approval of drawing up the resolution.

Council approved unanimously to have the city solicitor draw up the resolution to be considered during their Monday, March 15 meeting.

All members of council were present for Monday’s meeting, held via livestream on Facebook and YouTube.

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