TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – “Eat in the Streets” an outdoor dining initiative in downtown Terre Haute has been re-scheduled and will begin this weekend.
“Finding a way to provide safe, outdoor dining for the community has always has been the main priority of the downtown restaurants who initially created this idea of extending their outdoor dining areas,” Kristin Craig, Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce president. “Fortunately for everyone, they persevered and have found a way to move forward.”
“Eat in the Streets” was created by Connie Wrin, owner of The Verve, in mid-August and quickly gained support of other local downtown restaurants. The idea, inspired by similar actions in Indianapolis and Bloomington, was canceled before its scheduled start last month.
Following the cancellation, downtown restaurant owners, spearheaded by George Azar, Saratoga, and Wrin met with Vigo County Health Commissioner Dr. Darren Brucken and City of Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett to evaluate paths forward. Through discussions they were able to create a joint document that provides guidance and recommendations for all participating restaurants which comply with state and local health restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19.
As the City of Terre Haute expended its resources to deliver, then re-collect picnic tables and other items after the cancellation on the initial weekend, the Chamber and its Downtown Main Street initiative have agreed to cover the cost of having those items re-delivered. This effort will ensure no tax payer dollars are used on the project.
“The new plan is a solid combination of recommendations from both the Board of Public Works and Vigo County Health Department to ensure everyone can safely eat in the streets this weekend,” Bennett noted. “I admire the downtown restaurants who have pushed for this initiative. They have faced unprecedented challenges this year, but still continue to keep their doors open and are committed to providing a safe, healthy dining experience for everyone.”
“In pushing back the start, we have had the opportunity to work collaboratively with downtown business owners in re-examining the details of the ‘Eat in the Streets’ concept, collectively tailoring details of the activity to ensure businesses and residents the opportunity to enjoy expanded outdoor seating options in our beautiful downtown area, while providing the safest environment possible during this pandemic,” Dr. Brucken explained. “It ultimately remains the individual responsibility of our area residents to conduct themselves responsibly at all times, maintaining social distancing and wearing masks as often as possible to help keep our community safe.”
Many other downtown businesses and organizations have stepped up to donate services to the initiative. To create a safe environment for diners to enjoy a meal outside, large barriers provided by the Miracle on 7th Street Board of Directors will be used to safely block closed streets. The SkyGarden parking garage will provide parking for $1 throughout the day on Friday and Saturday.
The Board of Public Works approved plans to close two sections of Wabash Avenue.
- Closures begin Thursday at midnight to Sunday at 3 a.m.
- The corner of 7th Street to J. Gumbo’s will be closed.
- The corner of 5th Street to Taco & Tequila’s will be closed.
- All other streets will remain open.
- The First Financial Bank drive-thru will remain open and accessible.
- The Skygarden Parking Garage will remain open and accessible via Ohio Street.
- The Hilton parking lot entrance and exit on Wabash, west of the VCSC Administration building will remain open. The lot east of the building will remain accessible via the east-end of the alley between Wabash and Cherry streets, off of 7th Street.
If successful, local restaurants will ask the Terre Haute Board of Works to extend the street closures through the end of the year.
On Tuesday, when discussing Eat in The Streets, Wrin says the pandemic has taken it’s toll on her business.
“I’m functioning right now at about 25 percent of my normal sales. So it’s really difficult to support my staff, myself. You know, i still have to pay all the bills that come in,” Wrin said.
She hopes that being able to offer additional seating on Wabash Avenue will bring in some much needed customers for downtown restaurants.
She says the future of some businesses may just depend on it.
“Unless we get some relief from the government or we get more customers coming in, there’s several of us that may not survive this,” Wrin said.