In Southington, the town's Long-Term Recovery Committee voted to keep a portion of Center Street closed until Gov. Ned Lamont allows restaurants to go back to full capacity indoors. It seems to be working, as restaurants are able to use sidewalks and the street itself for increased outdoor dining.
The decision was a one-time response to the fact that restaurants are struggling under the restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic under the governor’s emergency orders — which included closing bars, imposing social distancing and limiting occupancy for indoor dining.
This has been tried elsewhere, and to good effect. New York City has closed dozens of blocks for the same purpose, from Friday evening through the weekend, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that this will last through October. Chicago has made an effort along the same lines.
But Southington’s experiment shows that it can also work on a much smaller scale. Restaurants up and down Center Street seem to be benefiting.
Theresa Malloy, owner of Paul Gregory's, joined with the owners of three other lower Center Street businesses, The Groggy Frogg, Ideal Tavern and Nonna Artemisia's Pizza, to ask the town to close the road. She said she's been able to serve a lot more customers.
Other businesses farther up Center Street wanted to leave the road open to allow for curbside pickup. But Cheryl Moran, owner of Anthony Jack's, said the closure of a portion of the street hasn't affected her business at all.
“If that's doing well for them, and it's something that's working for them, I wish them the best,” she said.
Whether this street closing will become a regular summer tradition remains to be seen. But for now it is one of the few ways that have been found to take the edge off the blow the pandemic has delivered to so many small businesses.
And that’s all to the good.