SOUTHINGTON — A portion of Center Street remains closed to vehicles, a boost to some local businesses that use the sidewalk and street for outdoor dining.
Town officials approved the closure of lower Center Street to vehicles in late May. Last month, the town’s Long-Term Recovery Committee voted to keep a portion of the street closed until Gov. Ned Lamont allows restaurants to go back to full capacity indoors.
Restaurants are restricted to half-capacity indoors, can’t open their bars and have to maintain six feet between diners outdoors.
Police put up barricades blocking off Center Street between Liberty and High streets. That still allows traffic up and down Center Street between Main Street and Center Court, the municipal parking lot driveway.
With more space for tables and a pedestrian-friendly space, Paul Gregory’s owner Theresa Malloy said she’s been able to serve a lot more customers.
“During the day, my Saturdays and Sundays have been good,” she said. “It’s been like pre-COVID business.”
Malloy 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. Other businesses further up Center Street wanted to leave the road open to allow for curbside pickup.
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. “I hope that it is able to help them out.”
Moran said the curbside business is crucial in making up for the losses due to other restrictions, such as reduced capacity and no bar. She’s had to turn customers away on busy nights since there isn’t enough room.
“On a normal Saturday night, we would have very single seat filled, inside, outside and the 18 bar stools,” Moran said.
Nancy Brummett, manager of The Groggy Frogg, said they’ve been able to continue curbside service and also have more space for outdoor dining. Customers gravitate to the pub’s two patios, and some customers are more comfortable outside.
“There’s a couple people who prefer to sit outside,” Brummett said. “It’s going to take a little bit of time for things to go back to normal. Everyone has their own comfort zone.”
The town allows outdoor dining from April until the end of October. Malloy hopes that lower Center Street will be closed during that time in future years.
“It’s working out,” she said.
Michael DelSanto, a town councilor and recovery committee chairman, said he was glad the closure was working for many restaurants, but that a recurring closure was a larger undertaking. This year’s closure was a response to the pandemic and an attempt to help struggling restaurants.
“It’s definitely up for discussion, but it’s not an overnight process,” he said.