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SLC launches ‘Open Street’ program to increase foot traffic downtown

FILE: Steve Griffin,

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Dozens of people gathered in downtown Salt Lake City Thursday night to kick off the city’s Open Streets Program — an initiative aimed toward boosting foot traffic at local restaurants and businesses. 

The program will block off Main Street to car traffic between 300 South and 400 South every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. 

“There is a strong, sweeping need to reimagine public space and create socially distanced ways to navigate Salt Lake City over a longer term,” said Peter Makowski, Salt Lake City’s Department of Economic Development acting business development director, in a statement.

As part of the program, local restaurants and bars will extend outdoor dining into the streets. The street will also be blocked off for dancers and buskers to perform while customers dine. 

The project is part of longstanding efforts between the Downtown Salt Lake City Alliance and SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall to create opportunities for Utahns to gather in a safe way. 

“Downtown Salt Lake City is the heart and soul of Utah and has been dealt tremendous challenges this year through the pandemic, the earthquake, a windstorm and more,” Mendenhall said. “I’m excited to have ‘Open Streets’ coming to Main Street and I hope residents from around the state will join us downtown as we safely begin to reactivate our vibrant and culturally diverse downtown core.”

This comes after both Salt Lake City and the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control relaxed guidelines surrounding outdoor dining during the summer to assist local businesses that were struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Public health guidelines — like social distancing and wearing face masks — will still be enforced. Businesses and restaurants will also be required to follow requirements for frequent disinfecting and other safety measures. 

“Projects like these are a great way to start talking about who the streets are for, and why,” said Peter Makowski.

The Open Streets program will take place every weekend until Oct. 10.