Outdoor dining will have a place in downtown Naperville without cars this weekend, allowing more space for social distancing and sidewalk sales.
Downtown Naperville Alliance and Dine Naperville have teamed up to plan a three-day trial run of an outdoor dining and shopping area along Jefferson Avenue from Main Street to Washington Street. Shops will offer sidewalk sales and restaurants, including Two Brothers Barrel House, La Sorella di Francesca, Potter's Place, Cold Stone Creamery, Kilwins and Everdine's Grilled Cheese Co., will serve diners at outdoor tables.
New matching table umbrellas will decorate the scene as diners enjoy grab-and-go meals and desserts or sit down for walk-up service or reservations. Participating restaurants will continue offering food for curbside pickup and delivery through rear alley access.
The city is providing public works crews to close Jefferson Street to vehicle traffic beginning at 7 a.m. Friday and delivering borrowed picnic tables from the Naper Settlement. The three-day event is scheduled to be open to customers between 10 a.m. and dusk Friday through Sunday.
Mayor Steve Chirico said the plan is generating enthusiasm on social media from people who are ready to support downtown businesses.
"I'm very excited to see how it all works out," he said.
Masks will be required to enter the designated area, and social distancing will be strongly encouraged when possible. Madeline Klepec, marketing manager for the Naperville Convention and Visitors Bureau and Dine Naperville, said the idea is designed to give a boost to restaurants and businesses amid the challenges of the ongoing pandemic, while also offering a much-desired sense of community.
"I think it'll really be beneficial for our restaurants to have the more outdoor seating," Klepec said. "And it's going to be a beautiful weekend, too, which really helps."
The Downtown Naperville Alliance is promoting the event and supporting stores and restaurants outside of the Jefferson Avenue block, which also will have sidewalk sales and outdoor dining spaces.
"We can't wait to see you safely donning your masks while you score hot deals on cool styles," the Downtown Naperville Alliance said in a promotional email.
Chirico said planning the outdoor dining and shopping weekend posed challenges with restaurant staffing, liquor license regulations, traffic, parking and other logistics. But he and Klepec said everyone involved hopes it will be a success worth repeating.
"As we learn," she said, "we'll modify it and perhaps try again on another weekend or a future date."