ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Outdoor "streeteries" are becoming increasingly popular across the DMV as restaurants continue to reopen. In Alexandria, a portion of King Street has been shut down to vehicle traffic in order to let restaurants set up outdoor seating.
During the Memorial Day weekend, crews stayed busy setting up tables and chairs along King Street so that stores and restaurants could safely reopen in Old Town Alexandria.
It turns out, this pandemic is not the first time the city of Alexandria explored the idea for a pedestrian-only "streetery."
Karl Moritz, the planning director for Alexandria, said there have been proposals about closing a portion of King Street to vehicle traffic for more than a decade.
"When the pandemic arose early this spring, we had a good plan already in place that we knew would be safe for the public and would balance the needs of pedestrians and businesses. It put us a step ahead," Moritz said.
While the set up may look similar to the original proposal, Moritz said the reasoning behind it is very different. The original proposal was to create a gathering place. However, Moritz said the current set up during the pandemic was done for safety reasons.
"Everybody is on the same page about being careful. Yes we want to provide the service and give our restaurants a fighting chance but public safety needs to be paramount," Moritz said.
Dozens of signs have been posted throughout Alexandria reminding customers to always wear a mask and continue to practice social distancing.
"This allows not only space for pedestrians to socially distance and be able to be away from each other but also if there is an ambulance call or something like that, the barriers can easy be moved," Moritz said.
Moritz said they have been working closely with local leaders and learning from other areas in the process.
"I’ve been checking in with planning directors and other officials around the region frequently to make sure we are not necessarily doing the same thing but we are all learning from each other," Moritz said.
As for what is next, Moritz said a new streetery could eventually become a permanent fixture of Old Town Alexandria.
"We are all going to want to assess at the end of the season to see whether or not it works. The initial reaction has been very positive," Moritz said.