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Outdoor dining option in the works

Downtown Lafayette restaurants could soon be allowed to expand their seating to the streets on the weekends.

Posted: Aug 12, 2020 6:45 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Cars could soon be making way for dining tables in Downtown Lafayette during the weekends.

It's part of a plan presented by the Friends of Downtown that would expand dining areas for restaraunts.

Friends of Downtown - Lafayette Treasurer Steve Bultinck said this is a plan to help bring more people back to the downtown area.

He said it's a concept he believes could benefit downtown businesses.

"It's a great way to jump-start the downtown economy," said Bultinck. "Probably the industry that's been hit the worst in all of this are the downtown restaurants and bars. And right behind that is the downtown retailers."

During the Lafayette Board of Works meeting Tuesday, Bultinck presented the plan. It would require certain city blocks to temporarily close for outside dining. Under the plan, certain city blocks would close from Friday evening until Sunday night.

Bultinck said this will allow establishments to operate closer to the 75% capacity under current guidelines.

"With the present guidelines, it's really impossible for a restaurant to expand to 75% capacity and still meet social distancing inside" said Bultinck.

A similar concept recently started in Indianapolis to help boost business amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Social distancing would still be possible under this plan. Tables would be spread out along the roadway to meet social distancing guidelines.

For restaurant owners like Don Kirby, the plan would allow them to serve more customers.

"We're only running at 40% capacity because of distancing. So having the ability to go outside and do a couple of things, but I think the atmosphere alone brings up the excitement about going downtown again," said Kirby.

Kirby said he's excited to have such an opportunity after the setbacks faced earlier this year.

"This is a welcoming thing for sure and it's going to be something as a bonus to us, to see something different," said Kirby.

Bultinck added that this is something he can see many downtown business supporting.

"We can get people downtown, they can hit their retailers too so everybody wins economically," said Bultinck.

If the plan is approved by the Tippecanoe County Health Department, organizers plan to start outdoor dining on August 28th.

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