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As restaurants reopen in Indianapolis, some streets will be closing. Here's why

Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar/USA Today
(CNN) -- Some restaurants in Indianapolis will have more room for customers when they reopen, thanks to a new initiative from city officials that allows for expanded outdoor dining options.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and city officials on Tuesday announced a plan to temporarily close five major streets to allow for expanded outdoor seating.

"We are committed to helping ensure that as restaurants and businesses begin to reopen, the safety of employees, business owners, and patrons continues to be a top priority," said Mayor Hogsett in a press release.

The city's decision comes as states across the nation begin to reopen after implementing stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic. Though many businesses, including restaurants, will be able to reopen, new measures will be put in place to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

There have been over 1.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus across the US, and over 91,000 deaths. In Indiana, there have been 28,705 cases, and 1,824 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

"We recognize how critical small businesses are to the livelihood of our residents, of our economy, and of our character," Hogsett said. "We will clear as many obstacles as we can to make sure they can continue to be an integral part of the Indianapolis economy."

Indianapolis is not the first to put such a plan in place -- many cities have made similar efforts to help businesses survive the pandemic.

In Florida, Tampa officials launched a two-week test to close streets to expand outdoor dining. In Seattle, officials in April temporarily closed some streets to allow residents more space to exercise. The program was so well received that earlier this month officials announced they will be permanently closing 20 miles of streets.

In Indianapolis, officials hope closing some streets will allow restaurants to place seating areas on sidewalks and parking spaces. It will also open up more space for pedestrians to walk.

Businesses will still need to adhere to social distancing guidelines and are limited to a seating capacity that is 50% or less then the business original capacity. Seating areas cannot be shared between business and must be in line with ADA requirements.

Marion County, where the streets that will be closed are located, will be allowed to open for dine-in service again on Friday, but only outdoor dining. This limits many restaurants on how many patrons they can serve since some only have a small patio area or no outdoor dining options at all.

The streets that will be closed include parts of Massachusetts Avenue, Georgia Street, Illinois Street, Broad Ripple Avenue, and the two southern quadrants of Monument Circle.

"These streets are places for major foot traffic already," City County Councilor Zach Adamson told CNN in an email statement. "Because it's hard to have this much foot traffic on these corridors AND maintain the recommended distance from other people, the plan is to open select streets to pedestrian traffic only."

For businesses not in these areas, they are also allowed to expand their dining options on private property contiguous to the restaurant, including the parking lot. To expand, restaurants need to apply for free for a temporary outdoor seating permit.

The street closures are expected to continue through the July 4th weekend.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

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