Snow or not, Arlington Alfresco could begin as soon as March

The popular Arlington Alfresco outdoor dining zone will return to downtown Arlington Heights streets as soon as mid-March, the village board decided Monday night.

Trustees' unanimous endorsement of continuing the concept, born initially out of the COVID-19 pandemic, comes amid uncertainties with the rollout and availability of a vaccine and continued indoor restaurant capacity limits.

Under plans reviewed during a virtual committee of the whole meeting Monday night, village officials would shut down the primary downtown intersection of Vail Avenue and Campbell Street to allow restaurants to expand their outdoor seating areas around St. Patrick's Day.

It would be a bare-bones setup for now, with ropes to delineate restaurant spaces, should there be snowfall and the need to remove it. The fencing installed as part of last year's Alfresco would be in place by mid-April, officials said.

"What we heard from the restaurants was they would rather take the risk that they may have to have downtown closed down because of the heavy snow and not functional for a day or so, rather than miss a really nice warm weather day that we might get," said Village Manager Randy Recklaus. "It's not something we would want to do every year. But given the circumstances, we could do our best to make this work."

Alfresco could last as long as Nov. 2, but there was talk Monday night of ending it by mid-September, then hosting a fall weekend festival and business expo in lieu of the traditional Mane Event and Taste of Arlington Heights normally held on downtown streets in August.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jon Ridler pressed village officials to start the logistical and financial planning for such an festival, but some officials acknowledged such a large-scale event couldn't occur until the region moves to a full reopening.

Trustees on Monday also extended Recklaus' authority to shut down live outdoor music at any individual restaurant that gets too noisy. Music will be allowed seven days a week, but Recklaus could also cut it back to Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights if problems persist.

A number of noise complaints stemmed last summer from residents of the Metro Lofts condo building at 10 S. Dunton Ave.

"We ask that the village set procedures and noise level limits and expectations, and that they actively enforce the rules," Marilyn Smith, a condo board member, told trustees. "We don't feel it should always be us having to complain."

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