WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Downtown Wilmington businesses were busy preparing for the first weekend of Downtown Alive on Wednesday.
The project will close certain streets Thursday-Sunday for the rest of the summer to help restaurants and shops expand their outdoor seating.
Downtown Business Alliance President Terry Espy says this is a great opportunity to serve more customers while remaining safe.
“This truly was an effort where the businesses are trying to help each other. We’re not coming out and saying, ‘give us a bail out.’ We’re saying, ‘just give us an opportunity,'” Espy said.
Street closures will follow this schedule: Thursdays and Fridays 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Saturdays 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sundays 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Front Street will close between Market St. and Chestnut St. and between Market St. and Dock St.
“I think it’s going to be a lifeline for some of these businesses,” Hell’s Kitchen General Manager Andrew Flynn said, “Especially, like I said, going back to the smaller businesses who haven’t been able to do the kind of numbers that they’re used to doing.”
Flynn, with the help of a friend, spent the hot afternoon building the fence for their new outdoor seating.
He says it’s a little short notice so all of his supplies haven’t arrived yet, but luckily his friends at Goodfellas are letting him borrow some tables until his arrive.
“It’s going to be great for us but I think it’s going to be great for a lot of the restaurants downtown, especially those that are a little bit smaller because they’re at half capacity right now and being able to expand their seating,” he said. “Not only that, but give safer seating for everybody. Some people just aren’t feeling safe to go inside restaurants.”
While Hell’s Kitchen got busy with a DIY project, owners at Rebellion made a trip all the way to Statesville to make sure they have enough tables for the big weekend.
“We’ve been running at 30% occupancy so we’re only really gonna add about 20 more seats out here,” Rebellion General Manager Chuck Archer said. “We have live music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday anyways so I think that’ll prepare that crowd to be out on the street and they can still have a plain view of the stage right here.”
Archer says it’s about a $3,000 investment to prepare for the new adjustments, but he says the initiative is really going to help a lot of businesses.
“If they can’t get quite back to that full occupancy inside, adding those seats is definitely adding revenue to the businesses down here,” he said.
Archer is also the general manager at Crust Kitchen and Cocktails.
Crust is currently under construction, but he anticipates it will be open on Monday, June 29 so they can take part in the Downtown Alive project next weekend.
Not all downtown businesses are taking advantage of the additional seating.
Owner of Fat Tony’s Italian Pub says he’s lucky to have a lot of patio seating, so he won’t be adding additional outdoor tables.
But he supports the project and thinks city leaders are doing the right thing.