Dine Out Lincoln, a program that permits restaurants and bars to expand onto sidewalks and streets amid social distancing restrictions, kicked off this weekend at The Railyard entertainment district in the Haymarket.
“We had to brainstorm and think outside the box to come up with something social and safe,” said Katy Martin of Hurrdat, the marketing company that manages The Railyard.
Restaurants including Bourbon Street, Gate 25, Hiro 88, Mellow Mushroom and Longwell's added additional outdoor seating and activities that will include movie nights and pickleball to be offered on certain days. To accommodate the extra seating, Canopy Street is closed off to car traffic by gates on Q and R streets and will remain closed for the foreseeable future.
Longwell's set up a basketball court outside for customers and blasted music that carried throughout the block Saturday night.
“This is something really fun that allows businesses extra space, and we have been really lucky to see people enjoying their time outside,” Martin said. “COVID-19 cases and everything else will determine how long Dine Out Lincoln lasts.”
Two businesses in other areas of Lincoln — Backswing Brewing and The Hub Cafe — have also been approved to expand their outdoor seating options.
Some of the businesses were already allowed to return to 100% occupancy, but employees and managers hoped the extra space will help customers feel more comfortable.
Even though there were only a handful of people who visited The Railyard on Saturday evening, businesses are hoping more people enjoy Dine Out Lincoln as word of the program spreads, said Drew Sallinger, one of the managers at Longwell's.
“We haven’t seen any change in customers yet, but we expect more next week as this continues,” he said.
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