NH Parking Garage to Turn Into Outdoor Marketplace to Help Struggling Shops, Restaurants

The first event on the rooftop of the Foundry Place Parking Garage in Portsmouth is scheduled for July 1

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In an effort to save struggling shops and restaurants in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, amid the coronavirus pandemic, there's a plan to turn the top two floors of a local parking garage into an outdoor venue.

On Wednesday at the Black Trumpet Bistro, chef and owner Evan Mallet was busy preparing for opening night.

"Today is the first day operating indoors and we are very excited about that," he said.

Mallet has been doing takeout, but like many restaurants in Portsmouth, he hasn't been able to offer outdoor dining because of limited sidewalk space.

"It's been beyond devastating. We have already seen the loss of several restaurants in our downtown," Mallet explained. "Eleven so far since March 15th."

To prevent another business from shutting down, some might say all you need to do is look up.

The city has approved plans to turn the top two levels of the Foundry Place Parking Garage into an outdoor marketplace with space for pop-up restaurants and shops.

"On this side, we would have a beer garden and picnic tables running along the middle," explained Kathleen Cavalaro, Executive Director of the Seacoast Repertory Theater.

The theater is another industry hit just as hard as restaurants and retail.

"It's going to take a long time to recover from this," she said.

That's why Cavalaro came up with the idea to offer more outdoor space for restaurants, retailers and the arts community.

Included in the rooftop plan are a performance venue and seating on the sloping lower level of the garage.

"Just being able to do one event a week will give us an injection of $40,000 to $50,000 just for our organization alone," Cavalaro said.

She and Mallett admit the pop-up rooftop won't solve every problem, but they say it's a way forward for their struggling city.

"I certainly hope that for my restaurant, it will be the infusion we need to get through this," Mallett said.

"And it will be fun," Cavalaro added. "It's just a way for the community to gather safely again."

Cavalaro and other downtown business owners, including Mallett, are working with the city to iron out logistics and capacity limits to maintain social distancing. The first event on the rooftop is scheduled for July 1 with a grand opening on July 15.

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