MERIDEN — The artistic Alice in Wonderland mural along Barristers Court is now accompanied by colorful dining tables placed there in an effort to provide local residents with a free outdoor-dining option downtown.
The new dining spot opened to the public last week and will be available until the end of the year, according to Belen Michelis, strategic communications specialist for the city. She said the city is planning a grand opening but the date has not been determined yet.
The Sustainable Meriden program along with the economic development, planning and public works departments worked together to create and complete the Barristers Court downtown dining initiative.
Joseph Feest, the city’s economic development director, said a lot of towns have been doing projects like this for a while. Finding a space like that in Meriden is challenging as the city doesn’t have a road leading to restaurants that can be shut down without impacting traffic.
“Barristers Court wound up being one that we could realistically close down,” Feest said.
He said the spot is an “al fresco dining option” that can accommodate residents any time of the day.
“It’s a very positive thing to do,” Feest said. “We wanted to give downtown a boost and we thought this was a good way to do it.”
He noted barriers were put in place to prevent cars from going through. The tables, in a variety of bright colors, add a “nice” touch to the area, he said.
“We are hoping that people will take advantage of it,” he said, adding it is convenient for people to grab food from a nearby restaurant.Could attract locals
Joan Sanchez, one of the employees at El Rincon Boricua Restaurant, 81 W. Main St., said she is glad the city opened the outdoor eating spot. She stressed that anything happening outdoors draws a lot of people and would like to have something similar along West Main Street.Competing priorities
On Wednesday around lunch time, Jesenia Concepción was enjoying lunch at El Mandao Restaurant, 82 W. Main St. She said that although the new dining area is “nice,” she would personally not use it.
She added that because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, she is not comfortable in public places.
Concepción said that to attract more people downtown, the city should focus more on things like fixing the roads.Different cultures
Ricky Williams, on the other hand, sees the new eating spot as a “great idea,” he said as he stood in Bentley’s Little Jamaica Cuisine, 29 W. Main St., ready to order lunch.
He said eating outdoors brings a different “vibe” and suggested the city should open up more similar spots.
He also said that to attract more people, the city needs to offer activities that would be appealing to the different cultures.
Sustainable Meriden is a student-led program helping Meriden achieve its sustainability goals.
To learn more about the program, visit https://www.meridenct.gov/government/departments/public-works/sustainable-meriden-internship-program-/.