West Chester, Pa. shuts down busy street for outdoor dining

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Thursday, August 13, 2020
West Chester Shuts Down Gay Street for Outdoor Dining
West Chester shut down four blocks of the popular restaurant strip for its "open-air market."

WEST CHESTER, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- If you asked Joseph Andraos back in March if his restaurant would still be open today, he'd have to say no.

"For the first few weeks it was very bad, I almost went out of business," said Andraos, who owns "The Mediterranean" on Gay Street in West Chester.

This past week, however, has been a game-changer since the borough shut down four blocks of the popular restaurant strip for its "open-air market."

"Gives a better feel to the town, it just brings more traffic out," said James Cappello, who manages Saloon 151.

Capello says the bar was struggling to turn a profit with limits on how many people can dine in, but now tables are filling up outside every night.

"I had to wait for a table. Our business picked up virtually overnight," said Mayor Dianne Herrin. She says when the traffic closure started August 3, it allowed more room for outdoor dining and social distancing to coexist, and as a result people, herself included, have felt safer going out.

"I felt like I was on vacation at home. There were no motorcycles, there were no trucks, there was no exhaust, it was such a different and wonderful experience," she said.

Mayor Herrin also says if this goes well, she'd consider keeping Gay Street closed for periods even after the pandemic.

"Closing down Gay Street has been great and I hope it's something they do going forward in the summer at least," said Cappello.

The borough says it has a deal with PennDOT to keep the street closed through the end of September and it's hoping to extend it for the entire fall.