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City’s plan to close streets, bring indoors outside is great

If using indoor space for patrons is restricted due to the virus, why not take the indoors outside?

That’s just what the City of Lock Haven is doing starting today on public space on East Main Street, closing that main thoroughfare from Jay Street westward to Grove and Vesper Streets.

The streets and nearby space will close from 10 a.m. Fridays and remain closed until 9 p.m. Saturdays through late September.

It is meant to give space — allow more space — for people to patronize downtown businesses and then stay or sit outside.

It’s a bold plan. PennDOT also gets credit for allowing the closure of East Main, also known as state Route 150. The plan is a good one … and time will tell if it makes sense through most of the summer, as intended. Parking and access is changed, but give this a chance. Some will need to do a little more walking to get their favorite liquor on Fridays and Saturdays, so if you don’t like that, buy on a different day.

“Beginning Friday, June 12 and continuing each weekend through Sept. 26, these sections of the downtown will be closed to traffic each weekend,” city Director of Community Life Kasey Campbell said as reported earlier this week in The Express and on www.lockhaven.com. “The closure of this section of downtown will accommodate pedestrian traffic, enabling restaurants to expand sit-down dining into the sidewalk and parking area in front of their buildings. Retail stores will also be able to move merchandise into the sidewalk and parking stall areas on the closed section of the Central Business District.”

Stores or restaurants that may not be equipped to offer outside services can contact the city planner.

“Any business in the city that may need to make an investment in tables, or other outdoor equipment in order to invest in their success is encouraged to reach out to City Planner Abbey Roberts (570-893-5903) to discuss the city’s new business enterprise loan offering which provides a 3-year loan at 1 percent with no payments for the first six months,” Campbell said.

Thanks to an approval by City Council on June 1, restaurants with Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board liquor licenses will be able to serve alcohol outside, as well.

Take note of that, people. The space is being opened and so is the restriction on alcohol consumption outside in these two blocks.

This action, in our view, represents a very serious effort by the city to help local businesses.

Those businesses deemed eligible to serve alcohol outside will be able to do so for sit-down customers by getting a free waiver to the city’s Open Container Ordinance provided by application, Campbell said. The applications are offered by calling the city at 570-893-5612.

During the closures, parking will be available at the city’s remaining lots and streets through the area and will be free after 5 p.m. on Fridays.

“The most convenient to the downtown being the lot near the corner of Grove and East Church (streets), and the lot on East Water Street across from the YMCA.

The Clinton County Courthouse has also agreed to open its lot to the public to provide free parking in its lot to downtown visitors beginning on Friday at 5 p.m. until Saturday at 9 p.m.

There will be added incentive to come downtown starting Friday, June 26, with the pending launch of the summer concert series. We say pending because things could change.

“The concert series committee will begin to hold Friday night free concerts on a stage in the middle of the East Main and Grove intersection. People are asked to bring their own chairs, enjoy dinner outdoors from a local restaurant while listening to music.

The stage will also be open on Saturdays for musicians interested in entertaining the public. Any amateur or professional performer interested in donating their time to help bring success to the city’s downtown businesses can contact Campbell.

We applaud the city, PennDOT, the concert series committee and the merchants for this initiative.

Other communities may want to do the same or similar.

The virus has hit local, small businesses very hard. Some will not survive. Even before the pandemic, many small businesses were operating on a slim profit margin. The virus wiped away much of their cash flow.

Communities — people — must work together to do all they reasonably can to be a part of the solution … and the resurgence.

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