City moving forward with plans to close streets for dining, despite Mass Ave merchant concerns

(IBJ photo)

The city of Indianapolis is moving forward with plans to close five major corridors beginning tomorrow to allow restaurants to expand or add outdoor dining as part of Mayor Joe Hogsett’s roadmap for reopening commerce in Indianapolis.

His schedule allows restaurants to start serving sit-down customers on Friday—but only outside. So this week, Hogsett announced plans to fast-track applications for outdoor dining permits.

By Thursday afternoon, more than 50 restaurants across the city had submitted those applications, which the Mayor’s Office promised to fast-track.

In addition, Hogsett announced this week it would close portions of Massachusetts Avenue, Georgia Street, Broad Ripple Avenue, Illinois Street and Monument Circle to traffic to allow restaurants in those areas more space for outdoor dining.

That prompted pushback from a group of Mass Ave merchants. Twenty-three business owners and not-for-profit leaders sent a letter to city leaders asking them to halt plans to close the street until the public had a chance to weigh in on the proposal.

Meanwhile, though, at least 20 Mass Ave restaurants have reached out to the city and expressed an interest in using outdoor space adjacent to their business and a dozen had completed the application process by Thursday afternoon.

Four restaurants on Broad Ripple Avenue and five on Illinois Street have also submitted applications.

The Mass Ave group complained that closing the street to allow businesses to expand dining or sales into the public right of way was “a recipe for disaster” because it would create a festival-like atmosphere not conducive to social distancing.

After the letter from the Mass Ave merchants was sent Wednesday night, Taylor Schaffer, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, said the city remain committed to continuing conversations with stakeholders in all of the impacted areas in order to identify challenges and alleviate issues.

Still, on Thursday afternoon, Mark Bode, the mayor’s deputy communications, told IBJ in an email that the streets will be closed tomorrow as planned with no changes.

The departments of Business and Neighborhood Services and Public Works are working to answer applications as quickly as possible, said Brandi Pahl, a spokesperson for the business and neighborhood services department. Some applications, like those for businesses that want to utilize the public right of way not located on a closed street, will take a little longer to process.

Businesses that have already applied should know or will know soon whether their plans have been approved, city officials said.

The closures are as follows:

—Massachusetts Avenue, from its intersection with College Avenue to its intersection with New York and Delaware streets.

—Georgia Street, from Pennsylvania to Illinois streets.

—Illinois Street, from Georgia to Market streets.

—Broad Ripple Avenue, from College Avenue to Monon Trail.

—Monument Circle, southeast and southwest quadrants.

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6 thoughts on “City moving forward with plans to close streets for dining, despite Mass Ave merchant concerns

  1. I took a walk down the middle of Mass Ave around 7 pm tonight.

    Here’s what I saw, aka a preview of what to expect starting tomorrow:
    Plenty of bicycles, alcohol, pets, panhandlers and scooters.

    Here’s what I did not see: Hand washing stations or outside restroom facilities.

    Have a safe and happy holiday weekend.

    1. Did not see any this morning around 10 either and really little activity at all. Did not see any hand washing stations or outside restroom facilities either.

  2. Anyone who believes that their letters, petitions, meetings, blog posts, social media, etc. would have an affect on this inept mayor and his child staff is naïve. This is no longer about safety (and hasn’t been so for many weeks) and until people figure that out then nothing will change. There is nothing funny about this but if there was some irony, it is that the very people being hurt by this moron are likely the very same people who put him in office (again). I know the people I do business with (barber, massage therapist, many restaurant owners) all voted for him. This is a glaring view into what this country can expect from a socialist state, all brought to you in living color. As soon as you lean on the government for everything, you need to know that that same government will extract all it wants from you. Good luck with that…

  3. A common cry is socialism when some are unhappy with government actions. Actually, letters, petitions and calls to have an effect, notably one seeking to open the economy when it would likely be better for all to continue to remain at home. Name calling without proactive participation or constructive criticism is useless. Business owners want to open facilities, so an option is offered. Is this exceedingly different from measure taken in other places. Outdoor dining is not. But, dining outdoor is not a requirement, people can choose to do this and they can bring hand sanitizer and they can make sure toilet visits occur a priori or a posteriori. So what is politics as usual: it is making tough decisions and seeking to please a large constituency. Seeking a conservative approach to open and to be safe is a laudable goal. But, personal responsibility is equally important,

  4. Cultural shift
    As the closure of Mass’ avenue becomes an accepted habit i suggest this.; Consider how many parking spaces would be lost if both ends of the avenue remained closed. Maybe large wrought iron gate entrances welcoming locals and visitor into a downtown playground culture. Extend the the use of outdoor space to business owners. by choice, the business owners could build a portable closure in the winter.
    Somehow we can discourage wanting to park in front of our favorite business. Other large cities work through this hurdle. Parking or some kind of transit to bring people here. Imagine reduced frustration looking for a parking space.
    All an artistic Cultural shift

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