By: Felicia LaLomia
As of June 22, New York City entered phase two of reopening, allowing restaurants and cafes to start offering outdoor dining. As a place that typically thrives on the support of tourists and locals alike, especially during the summer months, this is good news for Bronx Little Italy on Arthur Avenue.
The open-air shopping venue, full of restaurants, cafes and stores, provides a good amount of space for social distancing. The area, also known as Belmont, is one that brings in hundreds of thousands of shoppers every year and has over 100 businesses.
And luckily, for those businesses, the community is coming together to support one another. The Belmont Business Improvement District (BID) has established a plan with the Department of Transportation to close three blocks in the area, between East 188th Street and Crescent Avenue, for eateries to have outdoor seating in the streets. The closure wouldn’t be all the time — only from Thursdays through Sundays from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The stretch of Arthur Avenue that will benefit from this closure includes 26 restaurants and cafes that can take advantage of the piazza-style seating and make up some business they may have lost in the past few months.
Frank Franz, treasurer of the BID, told the Bronx Times many restaurants may stay open later on these weekends to take advantage of the seating.
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“Everyone stays open later,” he said. “It becomes like an event.” Franz also added that tents and heating units are being considered for the colder months if restrictions continue.
All businesses are still required to space tables six feet apart and follow other public health protocols. This won’t be a street festival, but it will help to bring the community together.
“The largest concern on the minds of restaurants now is opening as soon as possible,” Franz said. Arthur Avenue has already been forced to cancel the New York Pizza Festival and the Ferragosto Festival, planned for September, is still up in the air.
This trend of closing down streets for more outdoor seating is making its way across the entire city, as 100 miles of streets are planned to be closed as part of the Open Streets plan to help out struggling restaurants that normally wouldn’t have that option.
Since phase two began, the iconic Enzo’s of Arthur Avenue has set up seating outdoors on the sidewalk, the first time this has happened since the restaurant opened in 2005, owner Maria Di Rende told Time Out New York.
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“It’s an extra romantic feeling,” she said. “It’s not Italy, but it’s our idea of being Little Italy as a whole.”