FRONT ROYAL – A portion of Main Street will be closed to traffic this weekend as businesses expand operations into the roadway during what has been dubbed "Downtown Rebound," an effort to stave off economic turmoil stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Main Street, a portion of Chester Street and Kidd Lane will be closed to traffic from 2 p.m. Saturday-7 a.m. Tuesday. The gazebo parking lot will be open, but only accessible via the Laura Virginia Hale Place entrance.
“During this time, downtown businesses and specifically restaurants will be able to expand their services, displays and seating areas onto the sidewalks and Main Street," a town public notice states.
The notice adds that “this is not a festival, but it is an opportunity for citizens to get out and visit our restaurants and businesses throughout Front Royal” and that “citizens are expected to maintain six feet social distancing and follow other guidelines as directed by Governor Northam’s Executive Order 61." Additionally, it states that restaurants "may provide additional guidance."
While the initiative to temporarily close Main Street was launched by the Town Council, Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick explained during a virtual Thursday work session that the town does not have the authority close off the street. Therefore, he said the town asked for C&C Frozen Treats owner William Huck to “formally pull" a permit "to close the street."
Huck, via his Family Fun Day Inc., applied for a special event permit, which was granted by the town.
Weather permitting, Royal Cinemas will be showing a movie at 8:30 p.m. today and Sunday on an outdoor screen.
Alcohol will be served by some establishments but drinking may only occur within the boundary of restaurants’ extended operating spaces pursuant to Virginia ABC regulations.
For the weekend, Tederick said that tables and chairs have been acquired and the town may rent some tents. He added that four Johnny Blues have been ordered and six hand sanitizing stations will be set up throughout downtown.
Councilman Gary Gillispie noted the measures are not permanent and “nobody is advocating to turn Main Street into a walking mall.”
“I just want to stress that this is just temporary...I guess somebody picked up in the media that the town is talking about closing Main Street and I just want to reiterate this is just temporary. This is just to help out some of our businesses that are in dire need and nobody is advocating at this point to turn Main Street into a walking mall,” Gillispie said.
Tederick said the town will assess the success of the weekend on Tuesday to decide if there will be similar future closures. He noted there have been discussions of possibly closing Main Street to traffic next weekend and “if it’s a great success and businesses are pleased,” it could stay closed until business restrictions are lifted by the state.
“I believe it’s going to be a safe closure and I think it’s going to benefit the restaurants and businesses tremendously,” Tederick said.
Councilman Letasha Thompson said she looks forward to seeing how businesses’ revenues are impacted from the Main Street closure and “I think it’s gonna be positive so I’m looking forward to a good weekend and hanging out downtown.”