Arlington Alfresco to begin tonight, but no Mane Event or Taste this year
Portions of Vail Avenue and Campbell Street are shut down to make room for tables and chairs as part of downtown Arlington Heights' outdoor dining zone set to launch Wednesday night.
Called Arlington Alfresco, the village's coordinated plan of street closures facilitates an expansion of outdoor dining spaces to help restaurateurs' bottom lines in the era of social distancing.
Village public works department crews spent Tuesday installing fencing for 18-foot-wide pedestrian walkways down the middle of Vail and Campbell, along with associated barricades and signage, while about a dozen restaurants prepared to set up their individual dining areas on the streets and sidewalks.
Outdoor dining already began last Friday at some downtown Arlington Heights restaurants, in conjunction with the start of Phase 3 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's Restore Illinois plan. But that was only for restaurants that already had some dedicated outdoor patio space.
The village-led downtown outdoor dining program allows restaurants to further encroach on the public right of way amid the ban on indoor dining statewide.
But, "we want to stress this is not a festival-type atmosphere," Village Manager Randy Recklaus said. Visitors won't be able to walk around with alcohol in the pedestrian walkways or nearby Harmony Park. Consumption is limited to individual outdoor restaurant spaces.
"This is merely a way for us to facilitate helping out our businesses," Recklaus said.
Just as village officials were putting finishing touches on the outdoor dining plan, they announced the cancellation of two popular downtown summer festivals, the Mane Event and Taste of Arlington Heights.
Scheduled for Aug. 7-8, the fests regularly attract thousands to the downtown streets. But large-scale festivals aren't permitted until the state's Phase 5, when a COVID-19 vaccine or treatment is widely available.
The Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the Taste specifically, concurred with the decision to cancel, as did the village board.
"It's unfortunate, but I just don't see how it's possible for us to be able to pull off an event of that magnitude," said Trustee John Scaletta, who voted with the other board members Monday night to authorize the cancellations. "Not only is there a lot of planning that goes on that leads up to both of these events, but the streets are shoulder-to-shoulder, and this just is not possible at this point."
For Arlington Alfresco, officials recommend making reservations with the individual eateries. For those who want to use curbside pickup, there are designated areas at the entrances of the outdoor dining zone, on the first floor of the Vail parking garage and in the parking lot south of the Metra station. There's also designated spots for deliveries for downtown businesses and residents.
The outdoor dining areas will be open daily until 11 p.m. The program is set to run through Labor Day weekend.