Indianapolis restaurants prepare to reopen with closed streets, added seats

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis will close five sections of streets downtown and in Broad Ripple to help local shops and restaurants add extra outdoor space.

The following sections are closed:

  • Georgia Street from Pennsylvania to Illinois.
  • Illinois from Georgia St. to Market Street.
  • The southern half of Monument Circle
  • Broad Ripple Avenue from College to the Monon Trail.
  • Mass Ave from its intersection with College Avenue to its intersection with New York and Delaware Streets.

In the past few months, the hustle and bustle of downtown has come to a crawl. For restaurants on Georgia Street, no sports and no conventions means no customers.

“It’s been devastating,” said Michael Cranfill, owner of the District Tap. They opened their downtown location on Georgia Street in the fall.

“We chose this location because of sports and conventions and large gatherings that come downtown, and as of right now, we don’t know when that’s going to return.”

Starting Friday, May 22, the District Tap will open 50% of their outdoor patio seating, and with the city now closing off Georgia Street, they can add even more.

“We’re trying to squeeze lemons into lemonade and make the most of what we can with the situation, and create an inviting atmosphere for people who live local who want to venture to downtown Indianapolis,” Cranfill said.

The street closures will create walkable strips reserved for pedestrians, shoppers, and diners. Retail shops and restaurants can use space along the sidewalks and parking spots, while pedestrians can use the street.

“You had Big Ten Championships, you had NCAA games, you had Pacers, you had Elton John, you had all those things canceled… So yeah, it was pretty devastating,” said Keith Stucker, owner of Pier 48 Fish House and Oyster Bar.

Stucker opened his restaurant in the fall directly across from Bankers Life Fieldhouse. They’ve spent the last few months trying out new menu items and trying to get a carry-out business off the ground. They can’t replace what has been lost, but they are hopeful to see some business return downtown.

“Yeah it’s nice they’re going to block off the street,” Stucker said. “It looks like they’re trying to come up with solutions that are compromises that would allow us to be able to operate.”

To get the extra space, businesses will have to apply for permits, which the city says will be fast-tracked. The goal for the new promenades is to bring customers back downtown, but if you were hoping to see Mass Ave turn into the next Bourbon Street this summer, think again.

“It is expressly prohibited to have a street party, to have a tailgate party, to have a cookout, to have a beer garden,” said Jeff Bennet, Deputy Mayor of Community Development for the City of Indianapolis. “We have to prevent the street fair environment from happening.”

The open street is meant to encourage social distancing, not prevent it. Bikes are encouraged, but scooters won’t be allowed. Live music will also be prohibited for the time being, and some restaurants may lose their free carry out parking if it’s on a closed street.

“We’re going to try to accommodate as much carry out parking as possible, while also maintaining the pedestrian corridor,” said Indianapolis Department of Public Works Director Dan Parker. “The pedestrian corridor is truly key to social distancing for the folks who are going to come back downtown.”

The District Tap is hoping to continue carry-out alcohol sales, and it hopes the closed street might be here to stay longer than the expected July 4 end date. He’s hoping these new plans might bring customers back downtown.

“We’ve collected very large amounts of debt that we’re going to have to pay off well into the future, so every creative idea helps,” Cranfill said.

DPW plans to begin setting up the closures by Wednesday with the closures taking effect Friday, May 22.

For more information or to apply for expanded outdoor seating, click HERE.

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