Streets eyed as dining room alternatives

To help village restaurants recover from the economic hardship wrought by COVID-19, Hinsdale officials are considering converting central business district streets this summer to al fresco dining corridors.

At Tuesday night’s village board meeting, Village President Tom Cauley credited village manager Kathleen Gargano with, shortly before the meeting, floating the idea of shutting off First Street between Garfield Avenue and Washington Street to vehicle traffic so the area can instead be used for outdoor dining. This will enable restaurants, once state restrictions are lifted, to serve customers in a way more conducive to social distancing than indoor spaces permit, Cauley said, alluding to the expectation that the businesses will have significantly reduced patron capacity even when fully operational in the post-COVID-19 environment.

“For restaurants to only have 50 percent of 60 percent of people in there, it doesn’t make sense to have their full kitchen staff and waiter and waitresses working,” he said. “We allow all the restaurants to put tables out on the street and put umbrellas up and allow there to be enough spacing so the restaurants can serve food out in the open air.

“We’re thinking of that as a good idea to give our restaurants on First Street a shot in the arm so that may come back or not close permanently,” Cauley added, indicating that more information is still needed on the proposal’s feasibility.

Trustee Neale Byrnes suggested the village look into taking the same action with Washington Street, along which several restaurants operate. Other trustees also seemed to favor the idea.

“If we can think of creative ways to save our businesses that fall within what’s allowed by the state, I say let’s go for it,” Cauley said.

Speaking on the status of seasonal activities, Cauley said this year’s Memorial Day procession has been canceled and struck a pessimistic note on the fate of the Uniquely Thursdays series slated to start next month in light of Gov. JB Pritzker’s phased plan for reopening Illinois.

“We may not be able to have Uniquely Thursday, but we haven’t actually made a decision on that,” he stated.

The Hinsdale Community Pool and weekly farmers market are also in limbo.

“We’re still holding out hope for the pool (to open) and we’ll make a decision on that soon,” Cauley said. “The farmers market will likely open in June, but we’re still holding out on that, too.”

The Hinsdale Chamber of Commerce last week announced that the annual Fine Arts Festival has been rescheduled from June 6-7 to Aug. 15-16.

Cauley also cautioned people using the dog park at Katherine Legge Memorial Park to observe social distancing guidelines so it can remain open.

“I’m firmly of the view that as long as people act responsibly, we just leave people to their own devices,” he said. “We’d just appreciate the people following the governor’s orders related to KLM.”

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean