Road closure allows Northside restaurants to take to the streets

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A section of North Linn Street has been closed to traffic to accomodate “Northside Outside.” Wednesday, June 17. — Matt Steele/Little Village

This summer, Iowa City is home to two pedestrian malls.

In an effort to encourage social distancing and outdoor dining as businesses reopen, the city has closed a small stretch of North Linn Street — from Hamburg Inn to the Market Street intersection — to traffic, allowing restaurants to expand their patios into the road. This temporary, mini ped mall is affectionately called “Northside Outside” by area businesses.

Tables, chairs, plants and patio umbrellas now decorate the street as Hamburg Inn, Brix Cheese and Wine Shop, Wild Culture Kombucha and Goosetown Café utilize the new space for outdoor seating.

The Iowa City Downtown District and City of Iowa City have also partnered to place more than 40 new picnic and bistro tables throughout the Northside and downtown neighborhoods in an effort to promote outdoor dining. Local artists Ali Hval, Julia Wolfe and Katlynne Hummell have painted designs on the tables as part of a new public art initiative.

Though restaurants have been permitted by Gov. Reynolds to reopen to their full capacity, provided they separate groups by at least six feet and follow other guidelines from the Iowa Department of Public Health, disease experts continue to advise against indoor dining at restaurants, particularly in cities or states without ordinances requiring face masks in public.

Drive-through, take-out and curbside pick-up are still the safest ways to purchase food from restaurants, according to the CDC, but if a restaurant is open to onsite dining, outdoor seating with tables spaced out at least six feet is the best set-up to mitigate COVID-19 transmission.

Of course, there are psychological benefits to leaving the house and dining out following months of that option being unavailable, but it is important to be aware of the risks.

The number of newly reported cases of COVID-19 have spiked recently in Johnson County with the county seeing six consecutive days of new cases in the double digits. From June 14 to June 21, a total of 117 new cases were reported in the county, which was the third largest number of new cases reported among Iowa counties during that period.

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