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NCDC: A partnership of city, local businesses helped restaurants open

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Norwich — Reopening downtown restaurants for outside dining as the state eases COVID-19 restrictions proved to be a group effort in Norwich, with the city, local banks, a construction contractor, a waste removal company and even Frontier Communications helping to make it happen.

Norwich Community Development Corp. Senior Vice President Jason Vincent told the NCDC board of directors Thursday that efforts to open downtown restaurants to outside dining last week required a group effort of public and private entities. The city provided concrete barriers, traffic warning barrels and picnic tables at the start, and the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce and Global City Norwich loaned tents, Vincent said.

Several other businesses stepped up to donate supplies and services. Dime Bank purchased barrels of flowers and additional tents to enhance outdoor dining spaces, and Eastern Savings Bank quickly followed suit, buying outdoor dining tables and flowers, Vincent said.

Setting up parking lot dining for These Guys Brewing on Franklin Street proved more complicated. Vincent said Wiesse Construction brought large concrete blocks to close the parking lot entrance. But that then meant Sterling Superior waste removal had to relocate its garbage bins. Frontier Communications, adjacent to These Guys’ building, agreed to allow the bins to be placed in its parking lot, Vincent said.

He said he plans to give a presentation to the City Council this summer to publicly thank all the participants.

NCDC board Vice President Rebecca Alberts, co-owner of These Guys Brewing, offered her own thanks during Thursday’s meeting. “We couldn’t have done it without you,” she said to Vincent, who coordinated the downtown restaurant outdoor dining plan.

At Thursday meeting, Vincent also told the board that many Norwich businesses continue to struggle but he "wouldn't be shocked" to see some businesses declining federal forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, citing restrictive conditions to convert the loans into grants, though the rules continues to evolve. The money is meant to cover payroll during business shutdowns or financial struggles caused by COVID-19 shutdowns.

NCDC board Chairman Robert Buckley, vice president of commercial lending at Dime Bank, said some applicants working at the bank on their PPP applications already are declining the funds, based on rules regarding forgiveness. He recommended businesses consult with their accountants on the federal requirements before accepting the funding to make sure the money is spent properly to qualify for the forgiveness.

"I had one person say, 'I don't have much work, so why would I bring my people back?'" Buckley said. "You have to use the proceeds for payroll."

c.bessette@theday.com

Editor's Note: Norwich Community Development Corp. board of directors Chairman Robert Buckley is vice president of commercial lending at Dime Bank. Information was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.

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