The day after the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race is traditionally quiet downtown with only typical Memorial Day observances and a handful of restaurants open.
Indy 500 Weekend 2020 will long be remembered as the year when coronavirus kept the cars and drivers in the garages and Hoosiers stayed away from 16th and Georgetown in order to beat COVID-19.
In an attempt to salvage a bit of the month of May and boost the Indianapolis restaurant industry while giving residents a reprieve from staying home, Mayor Joe Hogsett relaxed Marion County’s emergency orders to permit outdoor dining on restaurant patios or at the curb and on the sidewalks downtown, in Broad Ripple and anywhere else where there were seats under the open sky.
Massachusetts Avenue faired best all weekend and still hosted a sparse crowd of diners throughout Memorial Day.
“Oh, we gonna have some tacos and french fries for today,” said Monika Gio as she sat in the shade of a tree on the patio of The Tap at the foot of Mass Ave. “It’s awesome. I really miss this place and everything and the weather now because it is the middle of May, so it will be better soon.”
Saturday night, customers were standing elbow-to-elbow on the sidewalk outside The Tap awaiting seating six feet away from other diners on patio.
“I would say on Friday night we were probably 75-80%. Saturday we probably ran 60-65%. Sunday we were actually a little up in sales so that was nice to see,” said assistant manager Brandon Loomis. “On Friday, we planned on closing at midnight or one o’clock, but didn’t close the doors until 1:30, and we still had people here until 2:15, 2:30.”
Alex Simon was enjoying his first lunch outside of the house since March as the wait staff donned gloves and face masks to serve meals and sanitize each table after the check was paid.
“It was after two months, so I think we kind of deserve it,” he said. “Since the virus is still going on, there’s still a chance to get the virus, but we’re trying to stay away at least six feet apart from other people. We’re not going into crowds and stuff like that.”
Three blocks away at the Indiana War Memorial, some 50 people were not practicing social distancing or wearing face masks as they gathered to protest what was called “government overreach” by Governor Eric Holcomb and Mayor Hogsett in closing down segments of Indiana’s economy and society to battle the pandemic.
“And I think the balance is with we the people,” said Elizabeth Fiscus, spokesperson for the several groups that were gathered on the memorial steps. “That’s what it was. It is we as free people are to exercise judgment and evaluate those risks. Right now, we have a government with less than one percent rate of death destroying peoples’ lives.”
According to the Indiana State Department of Health, approximately 1,800 people have died of the coronavirus in Indiana, while almost 32,000 Hoosiers have tested positive.
That’s a fatality rate of roughly .57%.
State health officials cite aggressive social distancing rules and shut downs of schools and a meat packing facility and the isolation of outbreaks, such as in long-term care communities, as the keys to holding down the number of Indiana coronavirus deaths.