The 100 block of Aurora Street will remain closed to car traffic until Nov. 16, a two-week extension from the city’s original plan, according to an Oct. 29 statement from the City of Ithaca.
The city closed a portion of Aurora Street — dubbed the “streetery” — on June 25 to enable the block’s 10 restaurants to set up outdoor dining, and help alleviate the financial losses resulting from reduced indoor capacity. According to the statement, the city received several requests from the public to extend the street’s closure, even as Ithaca prepares for winter.
Since the closure, the block has been a rare hub of social life, with pedestrians filling through alongside customers eating at tables along the sidewalks.
“We have been very pleased with the success of the Aurora Streetery, and are happy to be able to support our local businesses during this difficult time,” the statement read.
Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 tweeted part of the statement, and received numerous comments suggesting that the city continue the streetery indefinitely, or at least close the street annually during warmer months.
New York State guidelines currently allow restaurants to seat customers at only 50 percent capacity indoors, and permit a maximum of 10 people per party. Other mandates include either placing tables six feet apart or putting up a barrier between tables.
Unless more restrictions are further lifted, many restaurants in Ithaca are bracing for the impact of cold weather on expanded outdoor dining, which has helped cushion the financial hardship of COVID-19 health precautions.
Yxi Ojeda, an employee at Luna’s Inspired Street Food on Aurora Street, hopes that space heaters will enable outdoor dining into the winter. But Ojeda said that, after the snow starts, the restaurant will have to make do with indoor dining only. Snow is already forecast for the Ithaca area on Oct. 30.
Some restaurants will have to hope for increased takeout and delivery orders once the weather turns too cold for outdoor dining. Gentry Morris, owner and chef at The Rook restaurant, plans to expand its online ordering and is considering delivering orders as well.
Until the block is reopened, westbound traffic on East State Street is rerouted to East Seneca Street, and northbound traffic on North Aurora Street will continue to detour to East State Street, Seneca Way and East Seneca Street.