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City may close Main Street on weekends to expand outdoor dining

The city of Hendersonville is exploring the idea of closing Main Street on weekends in order to help restaurants and shops expand into that space and reopen under social distancing rules.

Working with the groups Open Main Street and Love Hendo, downtown development coordinator Lew Holloway has been talking with shopkeepers and restaurant owners about how to quickly and safely reopen downtown for business when the state allows it.
“The conversation has been an ongoing strategic discussion about how to effectively engage the reopening guidelines in a way that gives our small businesses the best opportunity for being successfully and make people feel spatially comfortable,” Holloway told the City Council during a budget workshop Friday.
With the possibility that restaurants will get the greenlight to reopen for limited dine-in service in phase 2 of the reopening plan on May 22, Holloway said restaurants favor closing the street and expanding outdoor table service Friday night, Saturday and Sunday.
“We’ve generally seen outdoor (dining) is better and more efficient,” Holloway said. Shop owners, too, have expressed interest in using the street to display their wares and attract customers to an outdoor space that would make shoppers feel safe. “A great deal more square footage would be available to downtown restaurants and other businesses” if Main Street were closed.
“They’re interested in kicking it off as early as Memorial Day weekend,” Holloway said.
So far, the downtown business owners and city officials have talked about keeping the avenues open for traffic flow reasons when Main Street is closed.

“The response from retailers and businesses downtown has been overwhelmingly positive,” Holloway said. Before the current economic hardship created by the coronavirus, when he brought up closing Main Street “the response is not one of excitement," Holloway said. "It’s received with a lot of trepidation but I think people are recognizing this is a unique situation and we need to be creative in our response.”
Council members tentatively endorsed the concept and directed staff to move ahead with plans to kick it off as soon as Memorial Day weekend.
“I think this idea is awesome,” Council member Jerry Smith said. “This is really cool stuff. We could start to advertise as, ‘Hey on the weekend downtown is open and it’s open outside.’ Getting people back to what I call our city park, which is Main Street, I think is an awesome idea.”
In an initiative that's already under way, the city is promoting the reopening downtown under best practices for safety, sanitation and public health guidelines. Called Safe Hendo, the program is based on a pledge shopkeepers and restaurateurs make to adhere to use personal protective equipment, clean frequently and enforce social distancing. More than 50 downtown businesses have signed the pledge since it went live on line just a couple of days ago.
“These businesses have all committed to do this to provide a safe experience for these folks coming to these activities,” Holloway said.

“I’m taking the #safehendo pledge not only to keep my employees and customers safe, but to make sure that North Carolina continues to flatten the curve,” Chrissy Filka, owner of the BeeHive ReSale downtown, said in a news release. “The more committed we are to keeping everyone safe and healthy, the sooner additional business, especially restaurants and salons, will be allowed to open.”

Businesses taking the pledge commit to the best of their ability to:

  • Limit the number of people in my business to the recommended capacity
  • Require staff to wear facial coverings and PPE where feasible
  • Encourage customers to wear facial coverings
  • Implement cleaning protocols recommended by the CDC
  • Educate employees on guidelines and safe practices.