MANCHESTER — With one more weekend to go in the city's experimental closing of Hanover Street on weekend nights, some business owners basking in profits generated by the pilot project say it's a success and should be extended until October.
“I think it has been better than many thought it would be,” said Neville Pereira, who owns two eating and drinking establishments on the street and claims a 50 percent spike in business. “It's bringing the city to the level where we want it to be.”
Pereira and Chuck Kalatzes, who owns another spot on the street, say the weekend evening street closing should continue until Oct. 15, the latest day they are permitted to serve in outdoor cafes. The pair plans to write city officials this week and formally propose the extension.
The organization representing many downtown businesses has been urging a more measured approach to making a decision on whether the closing of Hanover Street ought to be extended.
Stephanie Lewry of Intown Manchester says there needs to be a full understanding of the impact the experiment has had on the entire downtown.
“It's an experiment and as I understand it, the city is going to take a look at it at the next Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting,” Lewry said. “They will have a discussion about it.”
The street closing was approved earlier this summer as a four-week experiment. The idea was advanced as a way to stimulate business downtown by making it more of a destination spot.
By closing the street, four restaurants are able to extend their outdoor seating to cover the entire sidewalk, plus the street space normally allocated to parking.
When the street isn't closed, the outdoor seating is limited to half the sidewalk.
“There have been no issues here whatsoever,” said Kalatzes, owner of Penuche's. “It definitely attracts people to come down here, they say 'we love this'”
Both Kalatzes and Pereira say crowds have been well-mannered even with the imbibing. Participating business owners have been paying the expenses for a police detail officer and clean-up and have arranged to set up and remove street barricades on their own.
Kalatzes has also paid for musical entertainment in the district.
“This is the best street in Manchester,” Periera, owner of Hooked and the Ignite Bar and Grille said. “It's the historical look, the brick buildings, the theater in the middle, it's what makes this street different from Elm Street.”
Lewry wants to make sure that the retail businesses are included in any evaluation of program, which she says is needed before any further closings are adopted. “To understand if it's doing what it needs to do, we need to look at the overall response,” she said.
“Maybe what we've done is dipped our toes in and we can find out whether there is more opportunity to develop this further.”
What's next: Aldermen will have to decide whether experimental closing of Hanover Street should be extended this summer. The board's next meeting is Aug. 7.