WEDNESDAY, Aug. 11 — An outdoor dining area in downtown East Lansing is closed as city officials reopen Albert Avenue to vehicle traffic today and students prepare a return to Michigan State University.
An “open-air” space created this summer along Albert Avenue offered residents a chance to avoid capacity restrictions at local restaurants for socially distanced dining in the street. But that pilot program has come to a close as picnic tables and barricades were removed today.
“For some of the bigger complexes downtown, we really needed Albert Avenue opened up for traffic flow purposes,” said Mayor Aaron Stephens. “I do think that something is going to be coming back. I thought it was successful. We might have something to open up by the fall.”
The pilot program, Stephens said, was intended to end today since its inception. Officials will now review community and business feedback to determine how to reopen outdoor dining.
Stephens said the road closure has caused some difficulties for traffic — particularly those looking to park nearby or pick up some carryout from adjacent restaurants. Overall, however, the feedback has been positive. Open-air dining will likely return to the city this fall, he said.
Officials are also exploring less intrusive outdoor dining options that might close on-street parking spaces rather than entire roadways. Stephens said it could also be relocated to another spot in the city that wouldn’t cause so much traffic congestion in a central area of downtown.
“We’re doing everything we can to explore options. Especially with capacity limits at places downtown, it’s important to have another avenue to keep businesses moving,” Stephens added.
Stephens also reminded residents and visitors that masks must be worn both inside and outside within the boundaries of the Downtown Development Authority. A comprehensive list of downtown businesses and their services that are being offered is available at downtownEL.com.