HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — East Queens Way in downtown Hampton will remain closed to vehicles to allow restaurants to continue with outdoor dining.
Hampton City Council unanimously signed off on the idea Wednesday night to keep the street blocked off for up to five years in the future.
What started as a way to help restaurants survive the COVID-19 pandemic is now something restaurants say they can’t live without.
The city closed down part of Queens Way last May for outdoor dining space when the governor’s executive order only allowed restaurants to serve people outdoors at 50% capacity. The block of historic buildings is home to more than half a dozen restaurants and bars.
While the agreement allowing for the street closure was set to expire a month after the state of emergency was lifted, the positive feedback prompted the city to reconsider.
“We are a waterfront community. People want to be outdoors, it’s a great idea for everybody, I think,” said Robin McCormick, the city’s communication strategist.
The city even splurged and bought “classier” tables, chairs and umbrellas that don’t need to be packed up each night.
She said the idea to close the street, which has for more than a century been a business center for the city, was actually talked about prior to the pandemic. The city was just never successful in getting all the businesses on board.
“It was COVID; absolutely that changed things,” McCormick said.
Amber Mooney, a cook at Goody’s Deli & Pub, said she can see exactly why tunes changed.
“It’s been great for us. We have a lot of people out here enjoying the patio,” Mooney said. “We have a very small restaurant so adding the extra seating out here has increased our revenue tremendously.”
Madison James, who recently moved to the area, said it not only creates a calmer presence in the area, but communicates the community isn’t afraid to take risks.
“It’s involved, it’s communal, and it’s really pretty,” James said. “I think getting to experience things in a different way than you did 20 years ago constantly makes a community change. It makes it grow.”
CORRECTION: In the on-air version of this story the street was wrongly named. WAVY-TV apologizes for the error.