To the editor: Salem awarded outdoor dining to all 24 restaurants that asked; all but one: Bella Verona. Bella Verona has been part of the fabric of Salem for 27 years. Behind the denial is a souvenir shop next door to Bella Verona whose owner has lodged various grievances with Salem since renting her storefront in 2020.

In response, the city has held two hearings, at which the complainant herself could not be bothered to appear. Meanwhile, the livelihood of Bella Verona’s owner and workers is in jeopardy. The essence of the shop owner’s complaints purport to be about safety and traffic. Nobody disputes that Essex Street is narrow, cars are obliged to travel slowly in the immediate area. The city’s barriers do not impede traffic as much as they make it safer while allowing for outdoor seating.

Lockdown restrictions devastated many small businesses. Bella Verona’s employees have worked incredibly hard to adjust, and with outdoor seating has allowed it to compete with the dozens of other establishments given the al fresco privilege.

While I cannot speak for why a store owner would prefer to hamstring its neighbor than to benefit from additional foot traffic that comes from Bella Verona, she has the ear of city councilors, and I am hopeful that reason will prevail. Certainly less draconian measures can be used to mitigate such issues? Is cutting off a significant component of Bella Verona’s business the only solution?

Please consider attending the next meeting (May 25):

Colleen Connor, Marblehead

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