Crews set the table for return of outdoor dining in suburbs

  • Arlington Heights public works crews set up fencing Wednesday for the third annual Arlington Alfresco downtown outdoor dining zone. They began shutting down the streets Monday for cleaning and pothole-patching ahead of Friday's first day for dining.

      Arlington Heights public works crews set up fencing Wednesday for the third annual Arlington Alfresco downtown outdoor dining zone. They began shutting down the streets Monday for cleaning and pothole-patching ahead of Friday's first day for dining. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Fencing is in place at the intersection of Vail Avenue and Campbell Street in downtown Arlington Heights, where restaurants will bring out tables and chairs in anticipation of diners starting Friday afternoon.

      Fencing is in place at the intersection of Vail Avenue and Campbell Street in downtown Arlington Heights, where restaurants will bring out tables and chairs in anticipation of diners starting Friday afternoon. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • A work area Wednesday morning, the street and sidewalk outside Hey Nonny in downtown Arlington Heights will be filled with music starting at 4 p.m. Friday on the first day of Arlington Alfresco.

      A work area Wednesday morning, the street and sidewalk outside Hey Nonny in downtown Arlington Heights will be filled with music starting at 4 p.m. Friday on the first day of Arlington Alfresco. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Rob Bonifazi of the Arlington Heights public works department power washes the Harmony Park fountain ahead of the opening of Arlington Alfresco this weekend. The village's Sounds of Summer concert series will return to the park on Thursday and Friday nights starting June 16.

      Rob Bonifazi of the Arlington Heights public works department power washes the Harmony Park fountain ahead of the opening of Arlington Alfresco this weekend. The village's Sounds of Summer concert series will return to the park on Thursday and Friday nights starting June 16. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Street closures are in place at Vail Avenue and Campbell Street in downtown Arlington Heights ahead of the start of Arlington Alfresco Friday.

      Street closures are in place at Vail Avenue and Campbell Street in downtown Arlington Heights ahead of the start of Arlington Alfresco Friday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Diners packed the outdoor spaces in the Arlington Alfresco zone the past two summers in downtown Arlington Heights. Alfresco returns for the year beginning Friday.

    Diners packed the outdoor spaces in the Arlington Alfresco zone the past two summers in downtown Arlington Heights. Alfresco returns for the year beginning Friday. Courtesy of Arlington Alfresco

 
 
Updated 4/28/2022 9:31 AM

Though temperatures barely registered 40 degrees Wednesday morning, Arlington Heights public works employees were busy putting up fencing along two closed-off streets of the village's downtown -- the first signs that warmer spring and summer temperatures may be around the corner.

But whether the weather cooperates or not, the Northwest suburb will officially usher in its outdoor street dining area starting with lunch service on Friday.

 

It'll be the third consecutive year for Arlington Alfresco -- a concept born of the pandemic that's been embraced by restaurateurs, patrons and village officials alike.

And though the pedestrian-friendly experience is resuming later this season -- it started before St. Patrick's Day in 2021 -- Arlington Heights is among the first municipalities this year to close portions of streets to make way for diners.

Similar dining areas are returning in the days and weeks ahead to other suburban central business districts, including Mundelein and Wheaton.

In Arlington Heights, the concept has become so popular that it prompted the village board to adopt an additional food and beverage tax to help fund the town's costs of setting up and maintaining the plaza atmosphere. Officials estimate they spend $90,000 a year on Alfresco, including public works overtime, equipment, materials, supplies and signage.

The extra 0.75% tax -- on top of the current 1.25% village food and beverage tax -- already has been applied to indoor diners' bills since Feb. 1 at about a dozen restaurants within the Alfresco zone near Vail Avenue and Campbell Street.

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It essentially means paying an extra 75 cents on a $100 meal, or about 8 cents more on a $10 drink.

Something that's free of charge Friday afternoon, however, is live outdoor music. Hey Nonny, the music venue and gastropub, is hosting singer-songwriter Jon Buschner from 4 to 7 p.m. next to business' street and sidewalk tables.

"We're thrilled Arlington Alfresco is coming back," said co-owner Chip Brooks. "People from all over the Chicago area love the magic of downtown Arlington Heights in the summer."

In Mundelein, a stretch of Park Street east of Route 45 will be closed to autos by 4 p.m. Friday so that restaurants on the block -- the Park Street Restaurant, Area Coffee and Tina G's -- can set up tables and begin serving customers starting that night or the next day. It'll also be the third straight year outdoor dining on Park Street will be available.

And next weekend in Wheaton, the city will again close a one-block stretch of Hale Street for alfresco dining within large tents sponsored by Innovator Capital Management and the Downtown Wheaton Association. The tent dining starts Saturday, May 7, outside eight restaurants.

New this year, the tents will host three music locations featuring rotating live performances on Friday and Saturday evenings, starting with the Lionel Moe Band on May 7.

• Daily Herald staff writers Russell Lissau and Katlyn Smith contributed to this report.

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