Marion County restaurants find success with outdoor dining

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INDIANAPOLIS — It was the first weekend restaurants in Marion County were open for outdoor dining since limitations were put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett ordered the closure of five stretches of streets, from downtown to Broad Ripple Village, in an attempt to bring Marion County residents out of their homes and slowly ramp up the county’s restaurant industry.

It was a Memorial Day weekend unlike any other in Indianapolis. Marion County residents on Sunday did not spend their afternoon at the track for the Indianapolis 500. Instead, they took part in outdoor dining in Marion County after months of take out only.

“It is getting vibrant like it was before. We are seeing signs of that come back,” said Nisha Harke, an Indianapolis resident.

Rooster’s Kitchen sits at the northern end of Massachusetts Avenue. The restaurant set up a few tables outside so it could serve customers this weekend.

“It is a step in the direction for indoor seating. Definitely better than nothing,” said Stephen Tuttle, head chef at Rooster’s Kitchen.

Tuttle explained revenue has been at about 50 percent than normal. Their carry out and grocery services have helped them keep the doors open.

“I don’t know if this week things opening up has taken us up a whole lot but I think the weather is the bigger factor there,” he said.

Rooster’s Kitchen can not expand outdoor seating too much. The section of Massachusetts Avenue where it is located is still open to traffic.

“I can’t speak for certain about other restaurant numbers but I feel like with streets being blocked off and then able to have a lot more seating, yeah it is not a level playing field for sure,” he said.

Further south on Massachusetts Avenue, stretches of road are blocked off. Permits have allowed those businesses to extend their dining area into the street.

Even on a hot day, customers still came by.

“It has been great,” said Jason Mugg, owner of Nine Irish Brothers. “It is actually surprisingly going a lot better than I thought.”

Nine Irish Brothers has been closed for nearly two months. They only began offering take out last week.

“It definitely put us in a hold in the beginning but with us now being able to open up we are now starting to see revenue come back,” said Mugg.

Parking spots were taken away because of the road closures yet some restaurants had no problem filling up to 50 percent capacity.

Waiters and waitresses served tables in facemasks while many walking around downtown did not wear any facial coverings.

“Hopefully we can get these restaurants back in business,” said Harke.

More than 60 businesses applied for a permit to extend outdoor seating in Indianapolis. All restaurants have been instructed to enforce social distancing rules and provide personal protective equipment to staff.

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