EAST GREENWICH – Main Street was full of hustle and bustle on Sunday afternoon while patrons enjoyed outdoor dining from some of their favorite restaurants and browsed the offerings of local retailers.
The special outdoor event, made possible by the East Greenwich Chamber of Commerce, was a huge success according to Executive Director Stephen M. Lombardi.
“There was a great atmosphere on the street,” Lombardi said. “One person thought it seemed like a European street festival, and yet we adhered to social distancing. Everybody complied with that, but it was still a very excellent atmosphere.”
“We’re so happy for our restaurants,” he added, “that they were able to provide al fresco dining for their customers.”
Local shops and retailers also benefited, according to Lombardi, thanks to the increased foot traffic and exposure the event was able to provide.
From Dedford Street and King Street was closed, as part of the Take It Outside Rhode Island Initiative, and Main Street saw a huge bump in foot traffic that afternoon.
“It exceeded our expectations,” according to Lombardi.
The reviews from business owners and patrons alike were tremendous, he said, and it’s something the chamber hopes to continue hosting in the future.
“We’re going to keep taking it outside for as long as we can,” Lombardi said.
While there are things that need to be tweaked and considered in the coming months ahead when temperatures begin to dip, Lombardi feels hopeful that the chamber will be able to continue hosting successful outdoor events.
This Sunday was just the first in a series of events the town hopes to bring outdoors in coordination and partnership with the chamber and Rhode Island Commerce, according to a press release that was shared with the community on Aug. 28.
“It is our goal to offer these Sunday experiences in September, October and possibly beyond depending on the weather and interest from the community,” the town press release read.
“Beyond the Sundays we are looking into ways to successfully utilize the sidewalk and road areas directly in front of businesses on a more routine basis,” the statement continued. “This would allow for Main Street to remain open to travel as well as provide for the added convenience of having added space to work with, directly in front of stores and restaurants.”
In the coming weeks ahead, Chamber will be sponsoring a scaled back “Chalk the Block” event. On Sept. 17, pre-registered participants will have range from Court House Lane and a section of Peirce Street (from Revolution to Church St) to create beautiful street art masterpieces.
A huge part of this past Sunday’s success, however, is due in part to Main Street Coordinator Amy Moore. According to Lombardi, Moore “did a wonderful job in working with the restaurants and the shops” in order to make this event possible.
He also thanked Town Manager Andrew Nota for his cooperation and support, as well as the local police department helping to assist with the special event.
Al fresco dining and outdoor festivities, while still adhering to social distancing guidelines, is exactly the kind of creative thinking that has given Nota hope for the town’s small business community. While addressing the town council more than two weeks ago, Nota voiced support for the idea of sectioning off parts of Main Street on Sunday afternoon that had arisen from his discussions with Lombardi.
“It’s important that we put our heads together, we get creative here at the local level, and we try to develop solutions today that are based on a realistic perspective of what we know is going to happen this winter,” Nota told the council on Aug. 24.
This is a conversation that should be happening everywhere in Rhode Island, he had said, especially as the tourism season winds down.