CLEVELAND — As restaurants and other businesses begin to reopen this week, they are trying to find more space to socially distance without losing too many customers.
That’s why some cities here and around the country, including Barberton, are considering shutting off traffic temporally in special designated zones, so businesses and their customers can move into the street.
Business leaders in Ohio City want to turn a small portion of the heavily traveled West 25th Street into a pedestrian friendly entertainment district by temporarily closing the road on a evening or weekend.
It’s not a new idea. Ohio City visionaries have been pushing the concept for almost 10 years as the neighborhood began to blossom. But the idea never took hold. Some businesses, which rely on West 25th Street to move gravel and other products from the Flats, have resisted losing a key route to the highway. The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority also uses the road, which is controlled by the state. Local politicians never really pushed the idea.
Now, it’s getting renewed interest from business owners and city leaders. They think it could help restaurants get through the pandemic by giving them more space to spread out customers to meet social distancing rules.
"We have to think quickly and be innovative about how we support our small businesses especially our restaurants, and that’s why we are really pushing this idea,” said Cleveland Councilman Kerry McCormack, whose ward includes Ohio City.
McCormack told 3News Wednesday the idea could work across the city, from neighborhoods on the East Side near Shaker Square to Kamm’s Corner on the West Side.
“We would have to designate certain zones, work with the state to get the liquor issues figured out,” he said. “And use it as a temporary pilot project to help small businesses in the short term, so that they can open their doors and have enough customers to open safely.”
Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration is considering the proposal, which McCormack raised during Council’s finance committee on Monday.
“It is an issue we are looking into, but it’s not an easy snap of the fingers,” Chief of Regional Development Ed Rybka said during the meeting.
Jackson’s office said in a statement Wednesday that “the city’s Civil Emergency Policy Group is looking at options on this citywide.”
Ohio City businessman Sam McNulty, who owns Market Garden, Nano Brew and Bier Markt, is helping rally support among restaurant owners around the West Side Market. He told 3News naysayers should look at New York City’s Broadway Avenue, once among busiest streets in the world that now limits traffic.
McCormack said these small business need help now and hopes the city moves fast.
“These are not mega corporations,” he said. “These are great mom-and-pop shops that need our support.”