SOUTHINGTON — Town leaders designated a portion of Center Street for pedestrians only at the request of restaurants in the area.
Most of the street will still be open to cars. Following the vote of the town’s Long-Term Recovery Committee on Wednesday, police will put up barricades blocking off Center Street between Liberty and High streets.
Businesses on that section of the street are hoping to maximize foot traffic and take advantage of outdoor dining. Gov. Ned Lamont allowed restaurants to serve customers outside starting Wednesday.
Businesses closer to Main Street didn’t want curbside service disrupted. Town leaders said closing a portion of the road still allows vehicle traffic while creating a pedestrian-friendly area of downtown.
The closure will start soon and could run until June 20, according to Town Manager Mark Sciota. That date could be moved if restaurants are allowed to open sooner or if the indoor dining prohibition is extended.
Sciota said the police and fire departments had no problems with the closure, although tents or tables can’t be set up in the street in case emergency vehicles need access.
“We’re ready to move forward as early as tomorrow morning,” Sciota said at Wednesday’s video conference meeting.
Mike DelSanto, a Town Council member and recovery committee chairman, said everyone in town is working to help businesses as much as possible.
“We’re here for you, we’re working as diligently as we can,” he said.
The owners of The Groggy Frogg, Paul Gregory's, Ideal Tavern and Nonna Artemisia's Pizza wanted the street closed to vehicle traffic to promote outdoor dining. The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail crosses that end of Center Street.
Ace Memeti, owner of Nonna’s Pizza, said he was considering an awning and outdoor furniture if the Center Street closure was going to be longer.
Sciota told him there were no plans to make it permanent. Vehicle traffic could return once indoor dining is allowed.
Owners of businesses closer to Main Street said outdoor dining wouldn’t replace revenue lost if customers couldn’t get curbside service.
Sciota said he was glad a compromise was reached.
DelSanto said he wanted other business owners to know that the town is willing to help.
“We’re not doing this on some whim,” he said. “I don’t want any business, restaurant or otherwise, to feel like they’re left out of this process.”