INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Department of Public Works crews began closing downtown streets Wednesday morning in anticipation of outdoor dining, which begins this weekend as Indianapolis continues to emerge from its coronavirus hibernation.
Mayor Joe Hogsett announced his executive order effectively shutting down Marion County to limit the spread of COVID-19 will be relaxed starting Friday to permit restaurants to serve diners in the streets, on the sidewalks and in parking lots, as long as everyone is mindful of social distancing guidelines and sanitation rules.
“The key is the smell,” said Vincent Roberts from the Mr. and Mrs. Hot Dog Stand on Monument Circle, who’s been feeding hungry Hoosiers lunch in the streets for five years. “If you got a good smell coming out of your business, then you’re gonna do a lot of business. The other key is having a lot of good foot traffic, having a lot of people walking by, and you really lure them in with a good smell.”
DPW crews began blocking off northbound Illinois Street between Georgia and Market Street this morning before proceeding on to the south half of Monument Circle.
“You can now see a pedestrian corridor that is forming on Illinois Street,” said DPW Director Dan Parker as he surveyed traffic barriers separating the curb lanes from what traditionally would be traffic lanes. “It’s gonna be 26 feet across. IFD wanted an extra foot on either side. Restaurants will have the ability to expand in this space here that we are standing in.”
Pedestrians will be able to stroll the center lanes of the closed streets while diners fill the sidewalks and curb lanes.
Parker said crews will block sections of Massachusetts Avenue downtown and Broad Ripple Avenue in the Village Thursday.
“Along Mass Ave, the important piece is this corridor,” he said. “The sidewalks on Mass Ave are even narrower than the sidewalks here in downtown. So the important piece for Mass Ave, whether it’s retailers or restaurants, is the fact that we need to move the pedestrians off the sidewalks and into the pedestrian corridor. The closure of Mass Ave has everything to do with the pedestrians because there is not enough space.”
Orange signs will direct visitors to remain six feet apart.
“We’re gonna have message boards up everywhere to make sure that people don’t decide to drive through some of these barriers,” said Parker. “A lot of that is gonna be self-regulated. IMPD’s gonna try to educate as much as possible, but what you’re gonna see at this intersection is the arrow board pushing people either direction there on Georgia.”
Small business retailers, along with restaurants, need city permits to expand onto public right-of-ways.
Indy.gov/dineout has details on expediting the permitting process.
Mayor Hogsett said he expects his outdoor dining order may last until July 4.