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The future of open streets in downtown SLC

Posted at 5:45 PM, Sep 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-06 21:31:55-04

SALT LAKE CITY — An experiment to help downtown Salt Lake City businesses during the pandemic appears to have been a success.

“Everything just feels better,” said Alibi Bar co-owner Mike Askerlund.

Over Labor Day weekend, Alibi Bar on Main Street once again doubled its square footage with an outdoor patio.

“It’s really encouraged people to come out and feel safe along the street here,” Mike Askerlund said.

Askerlund says Alibi has been able to make up much of what the business lost last year during the first several months of the pandemic.

“It was scary. In 2020, at one point we weren’t sure if we were going to make it all the way through. Being able to recoup some of those losses has been a huge help,” said Askerlund.

Alibi’s expanded patio is thanks to the Open Streets Initiative. Each weekend since late May, the city closed Main Street to traffic from 400 South to South Temple, which allows businesses to expand onto the sidewalks alongside musicians entertaining pedestrians.

READ: "Open Streets" makes Main Street a pedestrian-friendly dining and entertainment hotspot

“We’ve seen a fantastic response,” said Downtown Alliance executive director Dee Brewer said.

Since Memorial Day, sales climbed 20 percent above pre-pandemic levels according to Brewer.

“That is a material difference for these restaurants who were on death’s door last year without their normal audiences,” Brewer said.

Several businesses saw a 30 percent increase in sales when the concept was first tested last fall. Organizers plan to re-launch next summer, and perhaps, make it permanent as part of a downtown entertainment district.

“It’s definitely going to encourage more business off the board, encourage the arts and entertainment with the extra street space, things that just make downtown more fun,” Askerlund said.

While Open Streets ended Saturday night, the DABC extended outdoor dining until Nov. 1, saying they’ve received nothing but positive feedback from businesses.