UPDATE: The street closures were extended until at least July 19 due to the slow down of Indiana’s Back on Track Plan.
INDIANAPOLIS — Along Massachusetts Avenue, bars and restaurants have turned parking spaces into extra seating with a majority of the street closed off to traffic.
“Just speaking personally for myself, this has worked out better than expected,” said Max Berman, a manager with Bazbeaux Pizza.
Bazbeaux Pizza near the corner of Mass Ave and New York Street didn’t open for dining right away. As the closure went on, they could expand by adding more tables outside and slowly bring back customers and staff.
“Obviously, as you can see, we’ve been utilizing it, so it has ended up working out pretty well,” Berman said.
When the street closure was first announced last month, a number of Mass Ave merchants, including Bazbeaux, signed a letter opposing the move. Now a month later, City-County Councilman Zach Adamson says some of those businesses have had a change of heart.
“One of my constituents who was opposed to it sent me an email the other day and said, ‘Hey, we were wrong about this. How do we make this permanent?’” Adamson said.
Adamson’s district represents a portion of Mass Ave. He says making the decision of a permanent closure is a bit more complicated.
“During an emergency situation like the one we’ve been in for the coronavirus pandemic, that gives the director of DPW a great deal of latitude for closing down streets, but only in the sense that they’re temporary,” Adamson explained. “Permanent closures then would be a much more involved process and would involve councilors and the mayor’s office.”
According to a city spokesperson, the plan is to reopen the streets on July 6 with DPW removing barriers on Monday. Adamson says reopening now doesn’t rule out the possibility of another similar program in the future if businesses were to advocate for it.
”This whole experiment has given us a lot of insight that we wouldn’t ordinarily have had the opportunity to witness,” Adamson said.
This experiment ends with mixed reviews, but Adamson says they’ve been mostly positive.
Bazbeaux says while the closure has been nice, they’re excited for the street to fully reopen. Hoping fully reopening restaurants follow close behind.
“I think all in all, we’re looking forward to the block being back open again,” Berman said.
Indiana is currently set to move on to Stage 5 on Saturday, and if that happens, Bazbeaux says they expect to reopen at full capacity next week.
Mayor Joe Hogsett will hold a press conference Thursday at 10 a.m. to discuss the city’s next steps in reopening.