The winter weather confuses the reopening of Aurora ‘Streatery’, hopefully brighter days are ahead
While the following story reflects a slow start to spring, we’d like to see what your first night downtown looks like! Share your photos with the Streatery or the Commons using the Ithaca Voice at [email protected] or tag us on social media and we’ll share our favorites! (Don’t forget to also observe the security precautions of COVID-19.)
ITHACA, NY ––While the city of Ithaca closed the 100 block of North Aurora Street to announce the warmer weather and boost business among local restaurants by offering socially distant outdoor dining, the first day of “Streatery’s” reopening saw 37 degrees instead -Weather and a lot of blizzards.
Instead of a busy street flooded with patrons and filled tables, the 100 block of North Aurora Street looked just like it did in winter: empty. The only thing that signaled the reopening of the widespread “Streatery” was the signage closing the block.
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Despite the snowy first day, companies in Ithaca remain optimistic about the spring and summer. Oni Sutich, general manager at Luna Inspired Street Food, said the restaurant expects business to increase this summer due to the outdoor seating.
“It’s a busy season with spring and summer,” Sutich said. “Outdoor seating is great, especially during COVID.” It allows people to get out of the house safely, have some comfort, and return to a normal life. “
The Aurora “Streatery” first opened in the summer of 2020 to allow restaurants to expand their dining skills during the pandemic while complying with New York State guidelines. The initiative was extremely successful as the restaurants had a steady stream of customers and tables filled the cordoned off part of the street.
Given the success of “Streatery’s”, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, in collaboration with the City of Ithaca, decided to close part of North Aurora Street again for spring and summer.
Gary Ferguson, the executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, said the city of Ithaca decided to reopen the Streatery in April, as local restaurants tend to have outdoor seating during that time.
“I think it made sense to try early April so people could use it as much as possible,” Ferguson said.
The “streatery” was also badly needed during the pandemic due to New York State guidelines that allow restaurants to only operate at 75 percent capacity for indoor meals. These guidelines made it difficult for many restaurants as the seats still had to be three feet apart. As a result, Ferguson says it has become more difficult for restaurants to provide indoor dining options with such limited capacity.
Business for many local restaurants was sluggish during the winter. According to Sutich, Luna wasn’t as badly affected by the winter weather and lack of outdoor restaurants due to its delivery service, but business was still a little slower during the winter months.
Ferguson said the streatery and expanded al fresco dining options made a significant difference to restaurants last summer and fall.
Although the city of Ithaca launched the “streatery” in response to the pandemic, Ferguson said it was possible the initiative could continue after COVID.
“It’s very possible,” said Ferguson. “One of the things that I think came out of the pandemic was the feeling of better, more creative ways to use our public space.”
Given the warmer weather for this week, it looks like the North Aurora “Streatery” won’t be completely empty for long.