Outdoor dining in the streets returns to downtown Arlington Heights

  • Roberta Sweet, left, and Debbie Klein, both of Arlington Heights, enjoy salads outside Armand's Pizzeria Friday on the first day of the Arlington Alfresco outdoor dining zone in the village's downtown.

      Roberta Sweet, left, and Debbie Klein, both of Arlington Heights, enjoy salads outside Armand's Pizzeria Friday on the first day of the Arlington Alfresco outdoor dining zone in the village's downtown. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Jennifer and Martin Sadalski, of Arlington Heights, enjoy lunch outside of Cortland's Garage on the first day of Arlington Alfresco in the village's downtown Friday.

      Jennifer and Martin Sadalski, of Arlington Heights, enjoy lunch outside of Cortland's Garage on the first day of Arlington Alfresco in the village's downtown Friday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Donna Post, left, and Tajalli Horat, both of Arlington Heights, dine outdoors in the alley next to Salsa 17 on Friday afternoon in Arlington Heights. "We love it," Post said. "We feel like it's a little treat."

      Donna Post, left, and Tajalli Horat, both of Arlington Heights, dine outdoors in the alley next to Salsa 17 on Friday afternoon in Arlington Heights. "We love it," Post said. "We feel like it's a little treat." Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Rob and Mary Weber of Arlington Heights enjoy the afternoon sun during lunch Friday in downtown Arlington Heights. It was the first day of the season for Arlington Alfresco, an outdoor dining zone that allows area restaurants to expand their seating capacities into the streets.

      Rob and Mary Weber of Arlington Heights enjoy the afternoon sun during lunch Friday in downtown Arlington Heights. It was the first day of the season for Arlington Alfresco, an outdoor dining zone that allows area restaurants to expand their seating capacities into the streets. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Donna Post, left, and Tajalli Horat, both of Arlington Heights, dined outdoors Friday at the Salsa 17 patio in downtown Arlington Heights.

      Donna Post, left, and Tajalli Horat, both of Arlington Heights, dined outdoors Friday at the Salsa 17 patio in downtown Arlington Heights. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/12/2021 6:03 PM

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.

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