Terry Espy, president of the Downtown Business Alliance, reports that the first weekend of Downtown Alive, a program implemented by the city to allow outdoor space for downtown restaurants and retailers, was a success.
“This first weekend was our soft rollout and we were pleasantly surprised,” Espy said. “Of course there are things that will need to be tweaked as more businesses sign on to participate, but we’re extremely encouraged by the response so far.”
The program, facilitated by event manager Cool Wilmington and involving the DBA and Wilmington Downtown Inc., allows for the closure of certain stretches of downtown streets.
The current area includes Front Street bounded by Market and Chestnut streets, Princess Street bounded by Front and Second streets, Princess Street bounded by Second and Third streets and Front Street bounded by Market and Dock streets.
The program is set to run Thursdays and Fridays from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Sept. 7, which is Labor Day.
Espy said that the community as well as downtown businesses are already pushing for phase two of the plan, which could allow for an expanded area of street closures. Her organization has a meeting scheduled with Downtown Alive organizers and city Wednesday to discuss a second phase.
Even if an expanded area is not agreed upon right away, Espy said she feels confident that restaurants such as the Copper Penny, on Chestnut Street between North Front Street and Second Street, will be allowed expanded sidewalk service.
Hayley Jensen, co-owner of Beer Barrio, said her restaurant saw a big increase in business over the weekend.
“We’ve chosen to keep our dining room closed for now so this has more than doubled our outdoor capacity,” Jensen said. “It’s been very beneficial.”
Jensen said she was pleased that each restaurant has the ability to create its own vibe and set up an outdoor space that reflects its personality. She did, however, express some concern about crowd control, particularly with the upcoming holiday weekend.
“People did tend to gather at the doorway, whether waiting to see about a table or to look at a menu,” Jensen said. “So we’re still working out kinks with crowd control and the wait list, but overall, customers were understanding.”
Jensen said that while she had less staff this weekend than she normally would at this time of year, they worked extremely hard and were pleased to be making money. She is gearing up for Fourth of July weekend by hiring additional support staff to help with crowd control, clearing tables and running food.
“I want people to feel safe coming downtown to support local businesses,” Jensen said.
In addition to Beer Barrio, other restaurants currently participating in the Downtown Alive program include:
- Circa 1922, 8 N. Front St.
- Front Street Brewery, 9 N. Front St.
- Hell’s Kitchen, 118 Princess St.
- Rebellion, 15 S. Front St.
- Shuckin’ Shack, 127 N. Front St.
- The Fortunate Glass, 29 S. Front St.
Retailers may soon join the program, according to the DBA's Downtown Alive web page.
Downtown Alive will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the intersection of South Front and Market streets on Thursday at 6:15 p.m. The event will feature Mayor Bill Saffo and other civic leaders, including the representatives from the DBA, Cool Wilmington and WDI, according to a news release.
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