Outdoor dining in the streets returns to downtown Arlington Heights
With temperatures hovering above 50 degrees and the sun peeking in and out, dozens of outdoor diners helped kick off the second year of Arlington Alfresco over lunch Friday in downtown Arlington Heights.
Born from the COVID-19 pandemic last June as a way to help struggling small businesses expand their outdoor seating capacities, the on-street dining zone is starting earlier this year -- albeit with ropes and construction cones to delineate restaurant spaces for now, should they require removal for snow cleanup.
Still, the lunch crowd wore light jackets, jeans and sunglasses, seeming not to mind that there's still a week to go before the formal end of winter.
"It's just awesome to be out. It's great to be outside," said Jennifer Sadalski of Arlington Heights, who was having lunch with her husband, Martin, outside Cortland's Garage at Vail Avenue and Campbell Street.
Rob and Mary Weber of Arlington Heights were seated at a picnic table nearby, also enjoying a meal in the midday sunshine.
"I think it's fair to say we agree that pandemic or not, (Alfresco) may be a blessing in disguise," Rob Weber said.
Mayor Tom Hayes said residents and business owners responded loudly to village surveys in support of the outdoor dining initiative to return this season -- and perhaps in the years ahead.
"It's been just a very, very successful program that really put smiles on the faces of many people," Hayes said. "Hopefully the weather will cooperate (and) hopefully we'll see some outdoor eaters even this weekend as we resume Alfresco this year."
The street dining area could last until November, though there's also been discussion of ending it in September to hold a fall weekend festival, if COVID-19 restrictions allow.