GREENSBORO — A portion of downtown's Elm Street will be closed for two nights to become a pedestrian-friendly mall with al fresco dining and shopping.
Open Streets, is being offered Friday evening and Saturday by Downtown Greensboro Inc., a nonprofit advocate of downtown businesses, in conjunction with Creative Greensboro and the city.
“Our restaurants and retailers are in pure survival mode. We need to do everything we can to work with them to provide a safe way to be open,” said Zack Matheny, president of DGI.
Elm Street between Market and Lewis streets will be closed to traffic 6 to 9 p.m. today and noon to 9 p.m. Saturday.
During that time, at least 10 restaurants, including Lao and Grey's Tavern, will be serving outside, and nearly 20 retailers like Thousands Prints and Just Be will hold sidewalk sales.
“We’ve longed talked about (with the city) what experience patrons would have if we shut down Elm Street so that people would have more room to walk,” Matheny said.
Greensboro follows a trend of other cities. Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership's July 25 trial run of The Streatery was so successful that DWSP is scheduling more for this month.
Matheny said the Greensboro event is not an arts event and therefore not a festival. Outdoor mass gatherings of 25 or more are prohibited by an order from the governor to curb the spread of the coronavirus. That restriction is part of Phase Two for reopening. Phase Two was scheduled to end today but has now been extended to Sept. 11.
“It’s really just geared to restaurants who can’t go above their capacity of less than 50%,” Matheny said. “This tries to maximize their capacity in a safe way.”
With a special permit through the city, participating restaurants will be allowed to expand table seating onto the street for the hours of the event.
“Allowing them to expand outside gives them more of a footprint,” Matheny said.
Retailers and boutiques are also invited to bring their wares onto the sidewalk and street for open-air shopping.
“I would call it a public-health-conscious opportunity to support businesses,” Matheny said.
Per an emergency proclamation in June making it mandatory to wear a face covering in most public spaces in Greensboro, Matheny said face coverings are required for the event and social distancing of 6 feet is encouraged.
Matheny said patrons should adhere to the three Ws: Wear a mask, wait at a distance and wash your hands.
For information, visit www.downtowngreensboro.org.
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