Tuesday, August 9, 2022

‘Downtown Alive’: Wilmington’s DBA surveying proposal to close streets, expand restaurant seating and retail areas [Free read]

A proposed plan would close downtown streets to help restaurants and retail shops cope with restrictions on capacity when they are allowed to reopen during Phase 2 of the state’s plan. (Port City Daily photo / File)

WILMINGTON — Taking a cue from major cities looking to balance reopening business with maintaining social distancing, the Downtown Business Alliance is surveying the public’s reaction on a plan to close some downtown streets to allow businesses to safety expand into the right of way.

The Downtown Business Alliance (DBA) took inspiration from cities like Tampa, which is closing public streets and allowing restaurants and shops to expand onto sidewalks, roadways, and city-owned parking lots.

Take the survey now through May 13 HERE.

As part of new downtown marketing effort called “Downtown Alive,” the DBA is floating a similar plan, that would “close Downtown streets adjacent to restaurants/bars/retail and allow restaurants and bars the ability to expand seating onto the sidewalk in front of their building and possibly into the street parking spaces. The streets will be designated as pedestrian use.  Retailers will have the ability to expand their wares onto the sidewalk in front of their shop as well.”

The proposed plan would be implemented part-time, limited to Thursday and Friday nights and weekends.

DBA President Terry Espy said that while the plan won’t be feasible until Phase 2 of Governor Roy Cooper’s three-phase reopening plan, DBA hopes to spend the coming weeks workshopping the details; According to Cooper’s plan, Phase 1 (which begins Friday at 5 p.m.) still prohibits the opening of restaurant dining rooms and bars. Phase 2, which could begin as soon as Friday, May 22, would allow these to open — but there will likely be restrictions on capacity. Allowing expansion into streets and other public areas could help restaurants cope with these restrictions.

DBA noted that the proposal was subject to change in the interim.

“While working through the details of this proposal our focus was to figure out the safest way to bring Downtown back to life while keeping social distancing at the forefront.  Keep in mind that this proposal is fluid and subject to change,” according to DBA.

According to DBA, the plan is currently being discussed and coordinated with a host of organizations, including the New Hanover County Health Department, the state ABC and ALE enforcement, Wilmington Police Department and Fired Department, and Wilmington City Council and staff.

The proposal includes the following points:

  • Close Downtown streets adjacent to restaurants/bars/retail and allow restaurants & bars the ability to expand seating onto the sidewalk in front of their building & possibly into the street parking spaces.  The streets will be designated as pedestrian use.  Retailers will have the ability to expand their wares onto the sidewalk in front of their shop as well.
  • Business owners will need to supervise their designated spaces and be sensitive to public safety.
  • Restaurant and bar customers must remain in the areas designated for the business the food/alcohol was purchased from.
  • Please keep in mind that “Downtown Alive” will be rolled out only as a temporary measure to increase sales for our existing Downtown businesses.
  • The event will be held Thursday, Friday from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m., Saturdays & Sundays from 10 am until 10 pm.
  • Specific streets to be closed will be identified based on the number of restaurants/bars and retail on the street wishing to participate taking into consideration that some corridors must remain open for those restaurants who wish to maintain pick-up/delivery.
  • Affected street meters to be bagged and vehicles must be moved by 4 pm Thursdays and Fridays, and Saturday and Sundays by 9 am.
  • City parking deck will be open to parking at normal rates to offset lost revenue due the bagged meters.
  • Downtown Trolley route will need to be relocated from Front St during the events. 

Related Articles