WESTPORT — The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved keeping Church Lane closed through September after hearing testimony of businesses’ success because of it.

Randy Herbertson, president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, said closing Church Lane from Elm Street to Post Road East has been good for business since patrons are taking advantage of outdoor dining and stores in the area.

“Another important thing to note is with all the new residents moving in and renting and permanently coming in, there is a lot of experimentation with people coming into town,” Herbertson said at a selectmen meeting Wednesday. “As new people here, they have experienced this area and enjoyed it quite a bit,”

Herbertson said patrons and businesses are both following safety guidelines. He said if the success continues, he plans to return to the selectmen to extend the closure for one more month.

The BOS roundly showed support for the proposal.

“I know early on we had discourse about music being played there, but I think that’s been addressed,” First Selectman Jim Marpe said.

Marpe said the closure appears to have also help increase foot traffic in the area. He said he’s also heard testimony of additional employment created because business has been doing well there.

“That’s an important element of this as well,” he said.

Peter Mennona, co-owner of the Spotted Horse Tavern, said being able to put additional tables outside because of the closure has been amazing.

“As a business, we’ve been able to hire back some of our staff that we would’ve otherwise not needed because of the reduced and restricted seating capacity,” he said.

Mennona said the foot traffic downtown has also benefited all businesses.

“It really is a nice scene to see people back downtown walking around (and) stopping in stores,” he said. “Some of the stores now have clothing outside on the sidewalk; some people are promoting their businesses.”

With uncertainty regarding the state’s decision on more fully opening indoor restaurant seating as the winter approaches, taking away the additional space now in use on the road could create a problem, he said. The decision to keep the additional space could continue to support and keep families employed.

“It would just provide our employees an opportunity to squirrel away additional funds in case there is another shutdown, in case we don’t get occupancy back, in case the bar never opens,” Mennona said. “It’s just beneficial to everyone.”

dj.simmons@hearstmedia

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