PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Some businesses in Allegheny County will be able to open as the county moves into the “yellow” phase Friday, but there are still plenty of restrictions.
The City of Pittsburgh is looking at some long-term changes to help merchants.
Business districts on life support are hoping phase “yellow” will be that much-needed shot in the arm. And they’re looking at creative ways to bring businesses back, like turning Walnut Street into an open-air pedestrian mall.
“We’re so excited to be opening back up. We’re in here getting ready,” said Taylor Lasher at Apricot Lane Boutique.
After a month-and-a-half in hibernation, stores and retail businesses began showing signs of life. At the Apricot Lane Boutique in Shadyside, Lasher and her staff prepared for a soft reopening on Friday.
“Today we’re preparing to sort-of open,” said Lasher. “We have to move all of our racks so they are 6 feet apart.”
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In store, traffic will be limited and clerks and customers will wear masks.
But with increasing evidence the virus is far less likely to transmit in the open air, some merchants will be selling their wares in front of their stores, and the Shadyside Chamber of Commerce is in talks with the City about closing Walnut Street to traffic and creating an outdoor pedestrian mall.
“So you can make the common area in the middle of the street truly feel like a place where people could one, stay apart from each other, two, stay distant from each other when they’re passing each other, and three, maybe put some tables outside so people can go to the restaurants and pick up a bite to eat and sit outside when the weather gets a little warmer,” council member Erika Strassburger explained.
This won’t be an option for business districts on bus lines, but a city task force on reopening is looking at allowing restaurants to establish sidewalk cafes without the usual permits and placing more tables and chairs in the middle of Market Square for outdoor eating there.
Councilwoman Strassburger is hoping people will take advantage of that and give small businesses a hand in these tough times.
“I think it’s almost like a patriotic duty at this point to shop local. Whenever you’re getting gifts, getting food, whatever it might be, shop at your local place,” she said.