’Downtown Alive’ allows for expanded outdoor dining in Wilmington

Organizers consider launch weekend 'soft opening' Thurs-Sunday

Downtown Alive wraps up first night

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Downtown Wilmington was more alive than it’s been in weeks after a vote by City Council allowed for the launch of “Downtown Alive,” which allows restaurants and retailers to take customer service off the sidewalks and into the streets.

At Front Street Brewery, manager Ellie Craig says they’ll start by adding four tables to their outdoor arrangement. That increase in potential customers means they’ll also be able to provide employees with more hours of work.

“We’re able to bring an additional server on each shift, an additional team member on each shift to clean those spaces and make sure they’re prepared for the next group of guests that are coming through, so for us, it means jobs, which is great,” Craig said.

Businesses must apply to participate, and the event will be weather dependent.

If rain is in the forecast, event planners hired to oversee Downtown Alive will make a decision at least two hours beforehand whether to go forward for the night and block off traffic to allow the restaurants to set up.

“Our main thing is to keep the public safe, but what we’ve heard, and I think you’ve probably heard, people aren’t ready to go and sit inside restaurants completely,” said former Downtown Business Alliance Board member Joan Loch. “Some of them aren’t ready to go in and shop so we’re giving the restaurants and the retailers an opportunity to regain some revenue.”

Matthew Danylec owns the restaurant, Platypus and Gnome. He says anything that gives the industry a fighting chance is a step in the right direction.

“I just want the opportunity to do what I do,” he said. “I’m not necessarily looking for government handouts to carry me through, you know, but sometimes we have to take them, but I really just want to do my job. I want to get up, go to work, go home at the end of the day so this will allow us a little more of a chance to do that.”

Beer Barrio is only offering carry-out orders and outdoor dining. Downtown Alive will allow the restaurant to double the amount of outdoor seating.

“We’re still in a pandemic so a lot of people want to pretend like we’re not, but if we do the safest thing for us, our employees, our customers, we’re going to try and mitigate the risk as much as we can while still having people come and have a great time and escape the house for a little bit,” said bartender Cece Calvano.

Loch expects to have more businesses participating after this first weekend.

“By next weekend, when all the businesses have their extra tables and they have their barriers and all out and when other businesses along with retailers have put their applications in to the city, then it should look really vibrant,” she said.

Weather permitting, Downtown Alive will affect traffic Thursday-Sunday during this time period during the following hours:

Thursdays/Fridays 6:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Saturdays 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Sundays 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

The temporary road closures include:

  1. Front Street bounded by Market Street and Chestnut Street.
  2. Front Street bounded by Market Street and Dock Street.
  3. Princess Street bounded by Front Street and 2nd Street.
  4. Princess Street bounded by 2nd Street and 3rd Street

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