'It's a new beginning': Diners fill the tables outside in downtown Arlington Heights

Diners fill the tables downtown as Arlington Alfresco starts on the streets

Wednesday night is what Danny Barbarigos, like many other downtown Arlington Heights restaurateurs, has been waiting for.

It was the first night of Arlington Alfresco, the outdoor dining zone on Vail Avenue and Campbell Street for which Barbarigos and owners of other closed downtown eateries lobbied, as a way to help their bottom lines.

“I'm fortunate enough to have something,” Barbarigos said of the 13 tables set up outside his La Tasca Tapas restaurant on Vail. “Overall it's a good feeling that we're open, people are out, and it's a new beginning.”

With the village's closure of the two main downtown thoroughfares on Tuesday, restaurants were able to expand their outdoor dining spaces onto the public rights of way while still allowing for social distancing per state guidelines. Some establishments with dedicated patio space already were able to open last Friday, when Phase 3 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's Restore Illinois plan took effect.

But Wednesday marked the beginning of the full-scale outdoor dining initiative in downtown Arlington Heights. The plan was coordinated by the village, which provided barricades, signage and fencing for 18-foot-wide pedestrian walkways down the middle of Vail and Campbell.

By the 6 p.m. dinner rush, most of the tables at La Tasca and the dozen or so other restaurants in the downtown were filled with diners who've been eager to return for their favorite dishes and say hello again to familiar faces.

La Tasca regulars Tina and Frank Crigler were among the first to grab a table, joined by their son, his girlfriend and their in-laws for seafood and sangria on Wednesday night.

The Arlington Heights couple have been coming to the restaurant since it opened 22 years ago, and they say they're probably up to once a week now. It's been host to some of their memorable celebrations like anniversaries and birthdays.

“They're like family here,” Tina said. “We missed it.”

“Every day that it's not raining, we'll probably be here,” added Frank.

The outdoor dining areas are open daily until 11 p.m., and the program is set to run through Labor Day weekend.

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  Restaurant tables and chairs are in place on streets and sidewalks in downtown Arlington Heights, while vehicle traffic has been replaced by an 18-foot pedestrian zone, as part of the village's outdoor dining zone. Christopher Placek/
  The Lucky Pickers duo of Despina Pafralides and Caleb Peters perform outside Hey Nonny on Wednesday - the first night of the Arlington Alfresco outdoor dining zone in downtown Arlington Heights. Christopher Placek/
  Street closures are in place on Vail Avenue and Campbell Street in downtown Arlington Heights for Arlington Alfresco, the outdoor dining zone aimed at helping restaurateurs' bottom lines in the era of social distancing. Christopher Placek/
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