As restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 begin to loosen, establishments in downtown Springfield are looking to add options for dining or selling merchandise outside.
Downtown Springfield Inc. is working on block-by-block plans, according to executive director Lisa Clemmons Stott.
“COVID has been so devastating for our businesses that anything is on the table right now,” Stott said.
DSI’s proposal could include closing some streets altogether, blocking off individual lanes or parking spots on others, and using sidewalks differently. Business owners on each block will have to work together to figure out what they’re comfortable with, including parking options, Stott said.
“We have to be cognizant of curbside pick-up and making that as convenient as possible, at the same time we have shown that parklets are an option and that’s on the table as well,” she said, referring to street parking spots that some businesses, including Maldener’s Restaurant, have blocked off with planters and barriers to make smaller seating areas.
Stott said she’ll present the proposals to the mayor for approval and help with implementation. She hopes an interim plan will be put in place for this weekend, and a more detailed plan adopted for the summer.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently announced that restaurants in regions that are meeting criteria under his plan to move to the next phase of reopening can offer outdoor seating starting this weekend. His administration also published guidelines for businesses to follow.
Mayor Jim Langfelder said he’ll consider any proposal for downtown, except shutting down the main thoroughfares, Fifth and Sixth streets.
“This could be the chance to re-invent downtown, especially the walkability, outside access,” Langfelder said. “So the potential is there and we’re open to everything but Fifth and Sixth streets, those are main corridors.”
Langfelder pushed for restaurants to be able to open in Phase 3 of the governor’s plan, and he said he’s happy to see outdoor seating would be allowed. However, he said he’d still like the governor to allow restaurants to have some seating inside as well.