Should Bangor Close Some Downtown Streets for Outdoor Retail?
Recently, the governor announced that restaurants in Maine counties that do not have instances of community transmitted COVID-19 could open their doors to limited dine-in customers. This is provided they follow proper safety protocol, of course. The rest of the state will likely begin to reopen in the first week of June.
But some cities, including Portland, are taking in interesting approach to get ready for that launch date by closing some streets in their downtown areas to allow businesses there to expanded outdoor seating and shopping areas.
It can be hard, especially in some of the older, smaller buildings in downtowns across the state, to accommodate a six-foot distancing. And there are many people, myself included, who are still a bit skittish about the idea of sharing an enclosed space with people outside their little isolation circle. The idea behind shutting down some streets to traffic, in cities like Portland, is to give folks a safe, outdoor space to shop and dine, with the hopes that will encourage people to come out and start to spend money locally, again.
In Portland's case, according to local news sources, city officials voted to close down four streets downtown. This would mean that motorists will be detoured around these sections, allowing businesses to set up semi-permanent store fronts and restaurant seating outside. It's suggested that the typical permitting process and fees to set up outside will also be made easier and more affordable.
Which leads me to this question: Should Bangor follow suit and close parts of downtown here, so businesses can set up shop outside? How would that look? Where would they reroute traffic, which seems to be in an ever-changing, choose-your-own-adventure situation in the summer anyway?
Would you be more inclined to venture out as things reopen if stores offered an outdoor shopping/dining option? Would if make you feel safer?
Personally, as long as the weather holds up and an outside option is available, I think its a great way to ease back into being social, safely and a little at a time.
Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see everything open and everyone shopping locally again. But I don't see people being super comfortable with that idea right now. I think if we can offer businesses a way to support themselves in safe and creative ways, that's a win for all.