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Greeley business owners map out vision for new open-air downtown court – Greeley Tribune

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Beginning July 1, there will be a new look to a section of downtown Greeley.

The 8th and 9th Street plazas between 8th and 9th Avenues will be transformed in a temporary outdoor, food-and-drink court atmosphere that’s closed to vehicular traffic but open and welcoming to foot-traffic visitors who want to enjoy downtown while following social distancing guidelines.

“The total goal is to have it look like a large outdoor seating venue with ways to sit and enjoy meals and drinks,” Aunt Helen’s Coffee House co-owner Bob Hutson said. “We want to be able to have numerous tables and chairs in a socially distanced way, and awnings and tents for barriers for the sun and hand-wash stations.”

GREELEY, CO – JUNE 25:A view of gates that can be closed to limit traffic at 9th Street Plaza in downtown Greeley June 25, 2020. Greeley City Council approved a plan to close the 8th and 9th Street Plazas in downtown to vehicle traffic and allow open consumption of alcohol and food to increase the amount of safer outdoor seating for downtown restaurants starting July 1. (Alex McIntyre/Staff Photographer)

Over the past several weeks a group of approximately a dozen downtown business owners launched an alliance to come up with a plan to draw more visitors and potential business downtown as the COVID-19 pandemic and safer-at-home restrictions continue to affect their financial bottom line.

The business successfully lobbied the city to change a law allowing open containers of alcohol and the ordinance established the geographic parameters in which the temporary food-and-drink court area will be set up.

The Greeley City Council passed the change in a special meeting Tuesday evening, meaning that at 11 a.m. July 1 the socially distanced area will be open for business.

“We are completely excited,” said Tower 56 Distilling owner Matt Estrin, one of the downtown business owners involved with the plan. “We thought several times it wasn’t going to go through.”

Tower 56 Distilling, Greeley's second distillery, is set to open early next year. It will be located next to the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant at 825 9th St., Unit B, in Greeley.
Tower 56 Distilling, Greeley’s second distillery, at 825 9th St., Unit B, in Greeley. (Greeley Tribune file photo).

The hours of operation for the open-air seating will be 11 a.m. to midnight Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday. Any alcohol in the area cannot be consumed from a glass container.

The ordinance remains in effect until Sept. 12, and the business owners are operating under a revocable permit, meaning it can be nixed at any time if the city sees the effort is not working.

As part of the ordinance, Estrin and his business colleagues in the alliance have the responsibility of managing the area. There are multiple pieces to this side of the initiative. For one, the business owners will take out and pay for liability insurance above and beyond what is in place for the city.

The businesses, also, will handle trash and sanitation work such as making sure the area is picked up, cleaned up and tables and chairs are wiped off.

The third component of the businesses’ responsibility is hiring a security service to manage the area, in an effort to help and assist Greeley police. This facet of the plan remains a work-in-progress, Estrin said, adding the security corps won’t have a role as a law-enforcement unit, but rather acting as an extra set of eyes for the police should trouble arise.

GREELEY, CO – JUNE 25:A view of gates that can be closed to limit traffic at 9th Street Plaza in downtown Greeley June 25, 2020. Greeley City Council approved a plan to close the 8th and 9th Street Plazas in downtown to vehicle traffic and allow open consumption of alcohol and food to increase the amount of safer outdoor seating for downtown restaurants starting July 1. (Alex McIntyre/Staff Photographer)

Estrin said the business owners wanted to take on handling the security element to show the city they stand behind their idea.

“We’re saying, as downtown businesses, we’re not asking the city to do everything,” Estrin said. “We’re trying to say we’re willing to put our money where our mouth is to show this will work and we’ll take on the expense and sweat equity on what that looks like.”

For his part, Greeley Mayor John Gates, who led the way for the city council’s support of the ordinance, called the venture “a very creative idea” at Tuesday’s meeting.

“The success of our downtown correlates to the success of Greeley,” Gates said Tuesday.

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