When it comes to this town, I’ve never been one to say something can’t be done. In my opinion, we can have just about anything we want, as long as we’re willing to do the work and pay the price. One reason Narberth has been so special over the years is a spirit of volunteerism that lets us not only fill our all-volunteer elected government and dozens of official committee positions, but also, host so many annual events that we are the envy of communities many times our size.
When we face a challenge, like deciding how to best support a restaurant/business community through an era of social distancing, getting people’s ideas is an important first step. But, as with most projects, ideas are the easy part. Literally everyone has ideas. The really challenging steps come next. I encourage everyone here to participate in these next steps where we compare ideas, weigh the pros and cons, estimate costs, consider unintended consequences, fund and execute the plan, then observe the results and revise accordingly.
The Borough Manager and his staff, the police chief, the mayor, Borough Council members, business owners and a number of citizen volunteers started these discussions on this topic many weeks ago. To help move the current discussion along, it might be helpful for me to recap where we are, lay out a couple of facts, and present some unanswered questions.
Where are we now: To date, we’ve seen a system of accommodations on a case-by-case basis. For instance, McSheas’s has been given permission to use a number of Borough parking lot spaces for a set time each day, while the Pub and The Greeks have been given signage to limit sidewalk traffic, and help pedestrians distance from diners during dinner hours. This patchwork system is a start, but certainly leaves tons of room for improvement.
The business community rarely speaks with one mind, and it's not uncommon for their preferences to be diametrically opposed. The same goes for the other stakeholders in this process, including non-restaurant business owners, downtown apartment residents, local pedestrians who use the sidewalks, bike riders and vehicle drivers, and public transportations riders. So we need to be careful not to generalize and say that “everyone” wants something or another - that’s almost never the case.
Some restaurants want as much outdoor seating as they can get to make up for the limited indoor capacity. Those restaurants still need street access for takeout/curbside pickup and delivery. Some restaurants prefer to stick exclusively with the takeout/delivery model and have chosen not to start onsite dining. Any solution that affects the street and parking spaces in front of restaurants must take all of the stakeholder business models into consideration.
Solutions involving public spaces may not suit the needs of businesses. For instance, the Borough parking lot behind McShea’s solves some of McShea’s needs, but isn’t an attractive option to other non-contiguous restaurants. The Commerce Way Alley, also owned by the Borough, was also not a desired option for any of the businesses we talked to.
Parking in a small town is always a hot-button issue. Being able to park three blocks from your destination may seem like good fortune in downtown Philadelphia, but that same driver may be irritated if they can’t park directly in front of the liquor store. We don’t need to take any solutions off the table, but we have to be aware that any solution which takes away parking spaces will make some stakeholders unhappy.
In 2020, we’ve canceled more events than we’ve held. In a normal year, like 2019, we closed down the first downtown block of Haverford Avenue, and the first block of Forrest on three Sundays - twice for Music Festivals and once for the Dickens Fest. We also closed Station Circle for a couple of hours for Santa in December, and for the young Dance Xpress dancers in May. We closed a small part of Forrest Ave for the Leprechaun Hunt, The Witch Hunt, and the Narbark Dog Parade. Every time we close the street, organizers meet first with the police chief and the director of public works to discuss safety, traffic, trash collection, Borough equipment, and logistics. If Haverford Ave needs to be closed, then Borough Office arranges a temporary detour with SEPTA. For large gatherings, the chief arranges for trucks to block streets, extra officers, ambulance coverage, and sometimes, additional police manpower from SEPTA.
Any plan that changes normal traffic patterns, or puts pedestrians or diners into space normally reserved for cars, must be run past the mayor and the police chief, who are tasked with public safety here in the Borough.
Any plan that uses parking spaces, in addition to recognizing the non-restaurant stakeholders, needs to address the safety issues of putting pedestrians/diners at increased risk. Plans that close Haverford Ave need to address the lack of options (especially with the bridge down) to get from East to West when Haverford is closed.
Any plan that uses parking spaces, in addition to addressing the safety issues, needs to consider a few details, including hours of operation, whether the barriers are permanent or temporary, installation resources (daily set-up and break-down if temporary), and the needs of other stakeholders.
Any plan that creates a “food court”, that is not contiguous with some or all of the restaurants it serves (parking lots, alleys, streets, station circle) needs to take into consideration the inherent risks of creating a gathering spot in a time where social distancing is still required. Manpower is our most expensive resource, and our police can only be in so many places at one time. How will the “food court” area be set up and broken down, kept clean, supervised, and what will happen if people refuse to follow state guidelines?
Every challenge can be met if we’re willing to invest the resources. It may be that we figure this one out. What we can’t do is just outright dismiss equitable rights of other stakeholders or ignore safety concerns because we are just more optimistic about safety. And no matter what we do, we won’t please everyone. But that’s OK. If we always fail to act because we don’t have 100% agreement, we’ll rarely get anything done.
Join the virtual meeting on Wednesday night if you have strong opinions and/or something to contribute to this discussion. See you there!
This information is from Narberth Borough. For more details, please go to the Borough's Green Phase Covid Web Page.
For more details, please go to the Borough's Green Phase Covid Web Page.
Support your favorite Narberth businesses, and win a prize!
Order pickup or delivery from your favorite shop or restaurant, or buy a gift certificate. Post a photo of the food or other item you bought on Facebook or Instagram, and tag your post with the business and #lovenarberth. (Use NarberthOnline on IG, and Narberth Online page or Narberth group on Facebook.)
A winner, randomly selected each Friday, gets a $100 gift certificate to the Narberth Business Association shop or restaurant of their choice.
Each new purchase and post is one entry into the contest. Enter as often as you want. Contest will run for at least 4 weeks, but may be extended.
Details to enter without a purchase:
Write down your name, address, telephone number, and email address, and "LoveNarberth contest" on an index card, and mail it to: NBA, PO Box 334, Narberth, PA 19072. One entry per mailing.
From the Narberth Community Food Bank:
Friends and Neighbors, 3/19/2020
What a difference a week makes! The challenges kept coming and have not stopped yet.
Last week NCFB asked for your help and you answered the call. We may never be able to thank you enough for your immediate and generous support!
In this time of unknowns, we have come together as one community, with a resounding response to this crisis; We will not allow our neighbors to go without. Bravo!
NCFB will be extending our Tuesday hours. Beginning 3/24/2020 we will be open between 10am and 4pm and 6pm and 8pm.
On 3/24/2020 we will begin deliveries to those who are most vulnerable and ordinarily visit the food bank in person. We are prepared to increase our deliveries as needed until this epidemic is over.
NCFB is asking for your help in three new ways
- Please check on your neighbors. If something doesn’t seem right, call the police and ask for a well check.
- Help neighbors by sharing area resource information:
- VICTORY gardens: Yes, we have done this before! We have seen the depleted supermarket shelves. Growing more food in your garden each season will help you, your neighbors and your larger community. You don’t like mowing grass anyway!
Conserve your dollars and our natural resources: We know the economic recovery is far off. You can save your funds and the environment by considering the return of clothesline, gas up only one car while we all are working from home, install a new ceiling fan, and reconsider how early the air conditioner needs to be turned on.
Emergencies notwithstanding, we will be closed to external business on Friday, March 20 as we attempt to re-focus internally on continuing to meet the ongoing crisis. Please give us an opportunity to recover and reschedule a different day for visits, calls and shelf-stable food donations.
To request a waiver to keep your location open, please submit this form. All decisions will be communicated by email and will balance public health, safety, and the security of our industry supply chains supporting life sustaining businesses.
A list of life-sustaining businesses can be found here.
What Is Social Distancing?
Social distancing means staying away from close contact in public spaces. It includes actions like staying out of places where lots of people gather and maintaining distance — approximately 6 feet — from others.
Social distancing also includes minimizing contact with people by avoiding public transportation when possible, limiting nonessential travel, working from home, and skipping social gatherings.
All Pennsylvanians should practice social distancing — not just those who are seriously ill or at high risk.
Social distancing is a proven way to slow the spread of pandemics.
If you are employed in Pennsylvania and are unable to work because of COVID-19, you may be eligible for Unemployment Compensation (UC) or Workers’ Compensation (WC) benefits.
The following changes to UC have been made to help Pennsylvanians during the COVID-19 pandemic:
All Driver License Centers and Photo License Centers in Pennsylvania will be closed for two weeks effective close of business on Monday, March 16.
Driver and vehicle online services are still available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These services include driver’s license, photo ID and vehicle registration renewals; driver-history services; changes of address; driver license and vehicle registration restoration letters; ability to pay driver license or vehicle insurance restoration fee; driver license and photo ID duplicates; and driver exam scheduling. There are no additional fees for using online services.
More information on changes being implemented as part of PennDOT’s response to COVID-19.
Expiration DatesExpiration dates for driver licenses, identification cards, vehicle registrations, and safety and emission inspections scheduled to expire from March 16, 2020 through March 31, 2020 will be extended until April 30, 2020.
Pennsylvania TurnpikeThe Pennsylvania Turnpike has temporarily suspended cash payments. Find out more about accepted forms of payment.
Rest Areas for Truck ParkingTo address safety concerns raised, PennDOT has identified 13 of its 30 rest areas in critical locations that will be available for truck parking starting March 19, 2020. See the list of locations.
As the nation continues to respond to COVID-19, be wary of potential financial scams trying to take advantage of the situation.
Here are some frequent characteristics of scams:
The news around coronavirus can be anxiety-provoking. Fear, anxiety, sadness, and uncertainty are all normal, but it is important to take care of your mental health.
Ways to take care of yourself include:
Substance Use Disorder
If COVID-19 has you feeling down, you are not alone.
The Get Help Now hotline is a confidential, 24/7, 365 treatment and information service for individuals and families looking for help with a drug or alcohol problem.
If you are out of work without pay, you are eligible to receive food sourced from the state and federal government from a food bank or food pantry in Pennsylvania.
This includes service workers who are unable to get shifts or hourly wage employees of non-essential businesses that have voluntarily closed due to COVID-19 mitigation. Find out more about how to get emergency food assistance.
Public Assistance Programs
The Department of Human Services (DHS) is closing all county assistance offices (CAOs) statewide to the public beginning Tuesday, March 17 in coordination with Governor Wolf’s mitigation guidance regarding COVID-19.
In-person business will resume no sooner than Wednesday, April 1. Pennsylvanians are encouraged to use DHS’ online applications and resources to apply for benefits or submit paperwork as necessary.
Meals for Students
The Pennsylvania Department of Education received approval from the federal government to allow K-12 schools in Pennsylvania closed due to COVID-19 to serve meals offsite to students.
These meals will be available at no cost to low-income children and make it possible for kids to receive nutritious meals and snacks while schools are temporarily closed.
For more information, contact your local school.
Talking to Kids About COVID-19
Children may feel frightened, overwhelmed, or traumatized by what they’re seeing and hearing about the coronavirus.
Here’s how you can reduce their fears and help them feel safe:
PSSA Testing and Keystone Exams
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has cancelled all PSSA testing and Keystone exams for the 2019-20 school year as a result of COVID-19. This includes the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA).
All Pennsylvanians are asked to practice social distancing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. That doesn’t mean it’s any less important to report child abuse.
Report suspected child abuse or neglect to ChildLine by calling 1-800-932-0313. The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Mandated reporters can report electronically.
State Correctional Institutions
As part of the statewide COVID-19 mitigation effort, visits at all state correctional institutions are cancelled effective March 13 and for a period of 14 days.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections understands the impact that canceling visits could have on inmates and their families and friends.
Video visitation is a free service being offered to inmates and authorized visitors while visitation
is suspended at the facilities in response to COVID-19 precautions. Find out how to participate.
Governor Wolf has ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations as of 8 p.m. March 19, to slow the spread of COVID-19. Enforcement actions against businesses that do not close physical locations will begin at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, March 21.
Restaurants and Bars
All restaurants and bars have been ordered to close their dine-in facilities to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Businesses that offer carry-out, delivery, and drive-through food and beverage service may continue to do so, but eating and drinking inside restaurants and bars is temporarily prohibited.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board announced steps to enforce this order beginning on Wednesday, March 18 at 8:00 PM.
Businesses offering carry-out, delivery, and drive-through food and beverage should employ social distancing best practices and be aware of the Trump Administration’s guidance to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.
Failure to Comply and Enforcement
Failure to comply with these requirements will result in enforcement action that could include citations, fines, or license suspensions.
The governor has directed the following state agencies and local officials to enforce the closure orders to the full extent of the law:
Private businesses, local organizations and other noncompliant entities that fail or refuse to comply with the governor’s orders that protect the lives and health of Pennsylvanians will forfeit their ability to receive any applicable disaster relief and/or may be subject to other appropriate administrative action. Such action may include termination of state loan or grant funding, including Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project (RACP) grant funding and/or suspension or revocation of licensure for violation of the law.
Finally, in addition to any other criminal charges that might be applicable, the Department of Health is authorized to prosecute noncompliant entities for the failure to comply with health laws, including quarantine, isolation or other disease control measures. Violators are subject to fines or imprisonment.
Resources and Loans
Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic DevelopmentThe Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development offers working capital loans that could be of assistance to businesses impacted by COVID-19. Resources and information can be found here as they become available.
U.S. Small Business AdministrationOn March 19, 2020, Governor Wolf announced the availability of low-interest loans for small businesses and eligible non-profits in all 67 counties in Pennsylvania through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Loan applications can also be downloaded at sba.gov/disaster. Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via the SBA’s secure website at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Completed applications should be returned to the local DLOC or mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.
The Wolf Administration has released the following industry-specific COVID-19 mitigation guidance:
The Pennsylvania Department of Education is committed to providing school communities with ongoing guidance, resources, and information regarding COVID-19.
You can find up-to-date guidance and answers to common questions on the Department of Education website.
With folks self-isolating and keeping a social distance from one another, it is more important than ever to have ways to check on neighbors and friends through sharing of contact information such as phone numbers and email addresses. I would even recommend having a Block Captain, if possible, someone who can be a go-to point for sharing of hyper local information. Situations can arise such as someone needing a hand grocery shopping, caring for a pet in the event someone gets ill and is unable to care for them, or even an emergency at someone's home in the event that they have decided to stay in a location other than the Borough.
In addition, I am including a Narberth Community Helpers list. These are community members who have already volunteered to help their neighbors in this time of need. You may reach out to them if you find yourself in need of assistance. You may also add yourself to the list if you would like to do so. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1txjYCupY8-OBNCyL2rOCL5HtABP2w3Z-BiG72jo7PHc/edit?fbclid=IwAR1fnMsAD8RbkV92fO30JV0qt7VG4vi2yazj1zEIe6FFD3EZbJeSBfEFow8#gid=0
Not everyone is on social media, nor is everyone on Narberth's email list, and it is vital that we have methods to stay in touch with one another through this challenging time. This is one step we can take to help secure our community.
Andrea Deutsch, Mayor
Aaron Muderick, President of Borough Council
As we settle in to a new routine under COVID-19 restrictions, we want to thank the children, adults, workers, business owners, and our near Narberth neighbors. We can see the strength of community as each of us modifies daily activities to slow the spread of Coronavirus.
I have two points of information:
1) The borough is staffing a special email address email@example.com which will respond within an hour's time from 8am to 8pm seven days a week. Use it for COVID-19 related questions and concerns. If you have questions about the continuity of government services during this state of emergency, this is the best address to get your questions answered quickly. It will remain in place until further notice.
2) The borough council will meet electronically tomorrow evening, Wednesday, March 18th at 7:30pm, for our regular meeting of Borough Council. The Civic Association is working to livestream the audio of this meeting on their Facebook page. If you would like to dial-in to listen to the meeting, please call 712-770-4010 and use access code 619221. Please mute your phone when you enter the meeting. You will be able to use this dial-in number for the public comment portion of the meeting as well.
We will continue to remain in close contact with county, state and federal officials so that we may have access to the most up to date information. We will continue to communicate new information as it becomes available.
Aaron Muderick, President
Narberth Borough Council
Andrea Deutsch, Mayor
On March 12, 2020 Governor Wolf declared a state of emergency and urged all non-essential retail to close in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. The goal is to protect the most vulnerable and at-risk community members. This measure will provide healthcare agencies time to manage an influx of critical care patients. Narberth followed with the declaration of a State of Emergency on March 14th, 2020. We share the Governor's sense of urgency to protect our community by social distancing. All non-essential stores were asked by your elected leadership to heed the recommendation and close. On March 15th, 2020, Governor Wolf extended his order to force food establishments to close all dining and operate via take-out only. He also ordered all bars to close in our area.
An advisory from the CDC, also released on March 15th, suggests that communities prohibit gatherings of 50 people or more. Governors across many states are now implementing that guidance.
Narberth business owners and their employees are our neighbors, friends and invaluable community members. We seek to underscore our recognition and support to those individuals and their businesses economically impacted by COVID-19. The decision to close was not easy. We deeply appreciate the care which was taken to ensure our Borough is in front of efforts to mitigate this pandemic.
In addition to those steps, we are also asking landlords of household rental properties for a moratorium on any pending evictions. We request commercial landlords to acknowledge the devastating economic impact COVID-19 will have and collaborate with their business tenants as long-term partners. Working together we can support the public health and public safety during this unprecedented emergency.
Narberth Borough Council will be meeting Wednesday evening. Amongst topics of discussion, we will begin actively pursuing county, state and federal economic recovery packages to support our community. Additionally, the council will explore options for local business tax relief in an effort to ease the devastating economic impact of COVID-19.
Our small businesses and their employees are vital members of our community and we affirm our unwavering support and advocacy for our Narberth businesses.
Aaron Muderick, President
Andrea Deutsch, Mayor
News compiled by Ed Ridgway, NBA president, and marketing consultant at Main Line PR