JEFFERSONVILLE — City leaders say they hope an event this weekend will help garner support for local downtown Jeffersonville businesses while giving residents and visitors space to enjoy what the neighborhood has to offer.
From 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. today and Saturday, Spring Street will be closed to vehicles from Market to Chestnut Street and Chestnut to Maple. This will allow pedestrians to comply with social distancing efforts amid COVID-19, and allow restaurants to have additional outdoor seating at tables provided by the city.
“At a time when we’re trying to keep some social distancing in place and also trying to help the local businesses out with being able to keep their doors open and sell their products, it just seemed like a great idea,” Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said of the collaboration between many in the city.
Daniel Mahony, co-owner at the Alcove on Spring Street, said he appreciated any efforts to help boost local businesses through this uncertain year.
Like others, Mahony said the struggle during the pandemic has been the footprint — how many people can patronize a business while owners make sure they’re spread safely?
“We’re excited for it,” Mahony said of the event. “I feel like it’s exactly the kind of thing we need to be doing going forward...especially if coronavirus is going to be with us for a while. Hopefully it’s a thing we’re just going to build upon.”
And it could be. Mayor Moore, along with Jay Ellis, executive director of Jeffersonville Main Street, say they hope if the weekend works out well, it can be something that continues next year during warmer weather months.
“The primary goal is to help the businesses because we know they need extra space, extra capacity,” Ellis said. “I think all options are on the table. Nobody knows where the pandemic is going to go in the winter and where restrictions might be.”
He said he believes that at least initially in the pandemic, there was a certain shock factor to businesses and their revenues and folks abided by stay-at-home orders.
But as the months have progressed, “many of them have pivoted and adapted and I’m really proud of the resiliency,” Ellis said. “And still the revenues are down.”
He hopes that people working together creatively can help bring that up. Some owners have bought outdoor heaters to take advantage of existing outdoor areas, and some are making use of parking spaces for seating when approved by the city. Ellis said he’s working on getting information to businesses on outdoor tents to make use of space.
“The small businesses have really found a way to adapt but still these are tough times and from what I’m hearing, the revenues are not where they were last year,” Ellis said.
He added that he hopes people can come out in a safe manner to support the local economy when they can, and when they can’t, show support through things like buying online, or for delivery or carryout, or even buying gift cards.
Moore said he hopes the nice weather will bring folks out today and Saturday, when it’s expected to top 70 degrees. If it proves to be a success, “it could be expanded next year, it could be expanded in other blocks, it could become a more fully fleshed-out event,” he said. “I love the idea of having a pedestrian-friendly couple of blocks in downtown Jeff, with or without Covid.”