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Restauranteurs hopeful outdoor dining spot will be 'huge' draw for Petersburg's historic Old Towne

Posted at 8:11 PM, May 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 20:28:35-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- Restaurants are hopeful a portion of Sycamore Street shutdown to create outdoor dining in Petersburg's Old Towne during the COVID-19 crisis could become permanent.

"This is something that I think could lead to a new future for the City of Petersburg's Old Towne," Petersburg City Manager Aretha Ferrell-Benavides said following a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday.

The city closed Sycamore Street between Bank and Bollingbrook streets Thursday to install tables so Longstreet’s Deli, DJ’s Rajun Cajun and Old Towne’s Alibi can serve outdoor dining. The three restaurants will be required to have a designated area to serve alcoholic beverages.

It was a reopening of sorts for businesses in historic Old Towne as crews installed 42 picnic tables and colorful umbrellas in what is being dubbed Old Towne Square.

"We're hoping this not only helps the restaurants down here, but all the businesses here and helps to get people back down to Old Towne," said Dino Lunsford, who owns Old Towne’s Alibi and spent $6,000 for the tables and umbrellas.

Lunsford, business owners and the city are betting the space will draw customers

"It's very exciting," Ward 2 Councilman Darrin Hill said. "I think this right here will generate activity in the community."

The aim is to get people to come out to eat and use the picnic tables. But the seating is not just for the restaurants in the blocked off section.

"Say if you ate at Brickhouse Run or Maria's Old Towne 21 or Trammato's, that you can get food from those establishments and eat at in those designated areas at the far end," Lunsford explained.

There are other businesses besides restaurants in the closed off area.

"I'm excited at it," said Richard Wilson, who owns Wilson's Trading Post. "I think it's going to be alright. We've all worked together."

The consensus is that the initiative will draw diners and shoppers.

"This is huge because we don't know how long that this is going to carry on," Lunsford said. "It's been crippling to all of us down here."

City leaders fast-tracked the Old Towne Square project.

"Right now, we know we've got to do what ever it takes to revitalize our businesses," Ferrell-Benavides said. "And so we pulled everybody together in one meeting, one room -- and made a decision this is not only good for the city. It's good for the city's businesses, it's good for the the community to give us a place to come back to celebrate."

If it is a success, restaurant owners said it might be a good investment for them and the city to to make Old Towne Square permanent.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for the most complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
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