BETHESDA, Md. — In the ongoing effort to help support small businesses during the pandemic, Montgomery County announced their shared streets program will remain through the spring.
It has been more than a year and a half since Montgomery County leaders set up outdoor "streeteries" in areas including Bethesda, Wheaton and Silver Spring.
Montgomery County now plans to extend the "Shared Streets" initiative through at least March 2022.
It is a trend happening across the DMV with some cities making the outdoor space a permanent part of their neighborhood.
In Alexandria, a section of King Street will permanently remain closed to vehicles.
On October 17, Alexandria City Council unanimously voted to permanently close part of King Street to drivers and convert the 100 block of King Street into a pedestrian walkway.
The city first closed off the area to drivers in May 2020, when they turned the historic section into an outdoor "streetery" and allowed restaurants to expand their outdoor dining.
"It's fantastic. It makes so much sense once they realized how well it worked after closing the street for the pandemic. It is a terrific idea to keep it going," said Marilyn Weissman who lives in Alexandria.
At Saturday's public hearing, local restaurant owners pushed for an amendment to come up with a beautification plan for the outdoor dining spaces and to limit the number of street musicians who are allowed to perform at one time.
The ordinance approved by Alexandria City Council said they plan to install new barricades, update some of the street furniture and the signage throughout the area in the short term.
They also discussed making some changes to the pedestrian area including adding a 5-foot pedestrian path along the sidewalks and maintaining the space for emergency vehicles to still drive down the center of the street.
"It opens things up so people can eat outside and not have to worry about what is going on and be healthy. It is wonderful it is going to stay this way. It's a win for everybody," said Weissman.
In Washington D.C., a similar program was extended through 2022.
The District’s program has been extended through Feb. 28, 2022. If a business was already permitted to participate, it will not need to reapply for a license.
"At the direction of Mayor Bowser, DDOT is working on creating a permanent Streatery Program to allow Streateries in public space after the temporary program expires," the city shares on their website.
DDOT released survey results in March that said 89% of the businesses that participated supported a permanent strEATery program.
Mayor Bowser has also been pushing the council to pass the Reopen D.C. Alcohol Act. One provision would allow owners to pay a fee to set up a strEATery from May to Oct. in 2022 and 2023.
“Because of the pandemic, I think we're really considering how we use our shared public space," former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for the area, Randy Downs said. "This design, I think, will be a model for the rest of the city.”