Indianapolis and Marion County will do a phased reopening beginning on May 15, 2020, said Mayor Joe Hogsett. Here’s how that will work amid the coronavirus pandemic.
To help the financial plight of restaurants and increase the safety of their patrons, the city of Indianapolis is considering extending restaurant dining rooms out into the streets Downtown and in Broad Ripple.
City-County Councillor Zach Adamson posted on Facebook a number of street closures that are currently under consideration. They include:
- Massachusetts Avenue from Delaware Street to College Avenue,
- the southern half of Monument Circle,
- Georgia Street from Illinois to Pennsylvania streets,
- Illinois Street from Georgia to Market streets and
- Broad Ripple Avenue from the Monon Trail to College Avenue.
The list, however, is preliminary. Details, like when restaurants will find out about their expanded space, still need to be ironed out.
“I just wanted people to start preparing, getting the basic idea of what their plans are for this weekend,” Adamson told IndyStar.
The city of Indianapolis will announce more details at a press conference Tuesday morning. Once the closures are finalized, he said the city could start shutting down the streets as soon as Thursday night.
According to the city’s plan, restaurants can begin to reopen Friday with 50% of outdoor seating only. Road closures have been discussed as one way to help increase seating. And even after the initial streets are shut down, the closures could evolve based on restaurants’ needs, Adamson said.
Expanding the footprint of restaurants that serve alcohol, however, does not change their original capacity. No matter where the seats are, they still must hold to 50% of their usual floor plan of outdoor and indoor seating, said Patrick Tamm, president of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association. That is according to the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission.
Whether restaurants take up the option for a larger outdoor footprint depends on their resources and layout, Tamm said. For some, the extra expense of buying chairs, tables and tents might not be worth it.
“Our biggest advocacy is trying to get restaurants to open up dining rooms,” Tamm said.
While dining outside could help, Tamm said restaurants could lose money if they open, cook food and then it rains, for instance.
He said the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association is pushing for a June 1 opening date for indoor dining in Marion County. As it stands, they could potentially open at a reduced capacity on June 1, but city officials have not set the date in stone.
City wants to hear from restaurants
In the meantime, restaurants can learn more about the expedited permit opportunities at indy.gov/activity/temporary-outdoor-seating.
“It takes a long time to nail down these details, but we’re trying to do this as fast as we can, knowing that every day that a business is operating at reduced capacity, it’s costing them money,” he said. “After two months, these businesses obviously want to get back to work as soon as possible. But our job as a city is to maintain as a priority public health.”
Adamson said the plan will open up more space for pedestrians on tight outdoor commercial corridors, like Mass Ave., that aren’t conducive to social distancing.
The plan is to keep enough main thoroughfares open so that traffic can get through, he said, though Broad Ripple Avenue might be a challenge.
Some businesses have been concerned that the closures will cost them too much in parking spaces. Adamson said he wants to hear from them, too.
“Whatever their thoughts are on that, it’s important that they participate in this process rather than just be angry about it — to offer suggestions,” he said.
A webinar is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at indychamber.com/events/dine-out-indy-webinar/ so that businesses can learn more and voice concerns.
Adamson expects the closures to last until restaurants return to full capacity.
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