Working together to keep Rehoboth traffic on the move
A little bit of history was made last week in Rehoboth Beach. It happened quietly and without fanfare, but it marked a new era of cooperation between the restaurant community and the City of Rehoboth Beach. Though the subject of the meeting was important, it wasn’t so much about what was said as that it happened at all.
It’s no secret that getting around downtown Rehoboth Beach in the summer can be a challenge. Narrow streets with parking on both sides make it difficult for drivers to pass one another without folding in their side mirrors and exhibiting various and sundry hand gestures to register their displeasure. Now add to that a phalanx of delivery trucks, the largest of which can be 70 to 80 feet long. And these trucks must stop, often double-parked, for anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour.
Those trucks are a critical part of Rehoboth’s survival not only as a city, but as a burgeoning culinary destination. Their difficult job is to deliver food and supplies upon which the restaurants and hotels rely to do business. No trucks, no restaurants. No restaurants, no visitors. No visitors … well, you get the idea. It’s the proverbial rock and a hard place, and a recipe for frustration and gridlock. But (and herein lies the history!) it’s a recipe that the restaurants, hoteliers, food vendors, liquor wholesalers and Rehoboth business owners in general are trying to rewrite - in full cooperation with the police department and our new City Manager Sharon Lynn.
Lynn is no stranger to gridlock. As the former town manager of Provincetown, Mass., she is used to streets that are even narrower than those in Rehoboth Beach. A single 18-wheeler unloading cases of food on Commercial Street can bring all of P’town to a standstill. There are fewer restaurants there than in Rehoboth Beach, so the solution was pretty simple: Simply limit the truck traffic and deliveries to the morning hours. And it worked.
But Rehoboth is a different story. And the new city manager knows that. In concert with Police Chief Keith W. Banks and Krys Johnson, the new executive director of Rehoboth Beach Main Street, she hopes to bring together the trucking companies, the restaurants, the hotels, the small shopkeepers (and perhaps even a humble restaurant columnist) to try and resolve the problem.
Last week’s meeting, hosted by Craig Krick at The Summer House, was spirited, upbeat and positive. All sorts of good ideas were thrown around. As moderator, Rehoboth Beach Main Street President Alyssa Titus drew applause by saying, “This is the first time someone in city management has asked our opinion and given us the opportunity to voice our opinions in an intelligent way.”
Longtime restaurateur Joe Zuber said the roadway behind Dos Locos makes his delivery situation easier than most, but went on to suggest that perhaps changing some of the blocks to one-way would help the flow of traffic. Chief Banks agreed, and said the police department has actually considered the idea in theory. Jay Caputo (Espuma) and Randy Haney (Blue Moon) said people weave around their delivery trucks all the time. And as relatively small restaurants, they usually get more deliveries in smaller trucks. These local purveyors and farmers would find it difficult to stick to a morning delivery schedule. Sharon Lynn chimed in, reminding the group that she is not equating Provincetown and Rehoboth Beach in terms of traffic and congestion.
David Hastings from Jolly Trolley (definitely no stranger to Rehoboth’s traffic woes) suggested that it wasn’t so much the trucks themselves as the time they spend at some of the bigger restaurants such as Nicola Pizza. A discussion ensued among Chris Capriotti (JAM Bistro), Mike Daley (Grotto Pizza), Bill Frankis (Greene Turtle) and Bill McComb (director of operations for our local Sysco) regarding the pros and cons of late-night deliveries vs. loading zones restricted to deliveries until a certain time of day.
Other issues were addressed, and Chief Banks suggested that, in the interest of finding a workable solution, restaurateurs and other business owners begin to work with their truckers on a case-by-case basis. Everyone agreed that a little fine-tuning would be a good idea.
It was also agreed that there would be more meetings and walks around town with City Manager Lynn. In her closing statement, she assured everyone no official changes would be made until a solution was found that everybody could live - and do business - with. The entire experience last week at The Summer House was encouraging, refreshing and constructive. I suspect this bodes well for future interactions between the city and those engaged in the business of eating. It’s a win-win for us all.