A section of Broad Street in downtown Bangor that had been closed to vehicle traffic since June is open again, but nearby restaurants have kept some of their expanded outdoor seating.
Earlier this summer, the city closed part of the street to vehicle traffic to allow downtown restaurants to expand outdoor, socially distanced seating. That closure was originally set to last until Labor Day.
The street partially reopened on Tuesday under an emergency order from City Manager Cathy Conlow.
Even though the street is open to traffic, part of it is now a makeshift sidewalk for pedestrians, and downtown businesses can continue to have outdoor seating on the actual sidewalk.
While Paddy Murphy’s asked for an extension of the street closure, a number of businesses asked for it to be reopened, said Tanya Emery, the city’s director of community and economic development.
“We had people on both sides of the equation, and the council decided that this was the best solution,” she said.
The Bangor City Council, which had considered extending the street closure into October, gave the reopening plan an informal thumbs-up last week, said Council Chairperson Clare Davitt.
The city is now looking at when the expanded sidewalk seating will end, Emery said.
“There may be a lot of people who are not ready to return to inside dining, or they want to keep curbside retail options,” she said. “And if that’s the case, we want to look at how we can accommodate those requests.”
A number of Maine cities closed streets to vehicle traffic this summer in an effort to help out restaurants that could serve fewer people indoors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A survey of downtown Bangor businesses, residents and property owners last month found that about half had a positive opinion of the street closure. Some business owners said the street closure — as well as the ability to set up seating in street-side parking spots — helped them offset some pandemic-related losses.