WHO KNEW THAT the Gate City’s downtown would be hoppin’ on a Friday night?

It was a lovely evening as my car made its way along Main Street around 7 p.m., and then, my jaw dropped.

Wow! Just about every establishment I passed was filled with happy people enjoying a drink or meal under the early evening sky. I looked across to famous Martha’s Exchange and noticed families with young children, couples, singles and folks of every age group having a great time and supporting local businesses here.

It was like a city block party with people laughing, strolling on the sidewalks and connecting with fellow human beings.

It hasn’t been easy for anyone, especially those who own small businesses downtown.

The coronavirus has taken its economic toll across the Granite State. It is estimated that some 300 businesses in the state have permanently closed since the start of the pandemic. Most of these losses have come from our two largest cities of Manchester and Nashua.

Mayor Jim Donchess and the Board of Aldermen passed legislation on May 21 expanding outdoor dining. Concrete barriers were placed along Main Street to narrow the lanes of traffic. Customers are seated at tables at least 6 feet apart on the sidewalks, with servers and diners wearing face masks.

“For the restaurants opening, expanding outdoor dining will help them get back on their feet. It’s important that their staff get back to work and for Nashuans to get back to their favorite restaurants and breweries,” Mayor Donchess said earlier this summer.

He’s right. Our downtown is back brimming with optimism, vibrancy and giving a much-needed boost to the local economy. On Aug. 21, Gov. Chris Sununu announced restaurants would be allowed to open at 100% capacity.

I’ve been living like a monk tucked away in isolation fearing I would catch the dreaded virus. I had been cleaning with so much bleach, again and again, it became an obsession and a bit kooky. In fact, I was heading to ConvenientMD on Amherst Street to take a COVID-19 test the Friday evening I saw the Main Street diners.

Four days later (that was quick) and results show that I, thankfully, do not have the virus.

My friends are wary about returning to their workout routines at the gym, and others are afraid to attend even small gatherings.

I admit it’s been hard to find a pandemic balance and live a close-to-normal life. But I also know that we’re lucky to reside in a small city and a small state.

Dr. Benjamin Chan, NH’s epidemiologist, recently said that under 1% of tests are coming back positive, with the state averaging more than 2,700 tests per day.

I’m liking those odds. Here’s to happier, healthier days ahead.

Joan Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at jtania512@gmail.com.