Iowa City officials and North Linn Street restaurant owners have transformed a one-block stretch of roadway into an inviting outdoor eating space to adapt to the realities of doing business amid the COVID-19 pandemic. CREDIT: KCRG

By CBJ News Staff
news@corridorbusiness.com

Iowa City officials have closed a one-block stretch of North Linn Street in downtown Iowa City to make way for what area restaurateurs are calling the “Northside Outside.”

As reported by the CBJ earlier this month, the city has blocked off to traffic and temporarily added plants and socially-distanced picnic tables in the area near the Hamburg Inn No. 2 to encourage area restaurants’ carry-out customers to linger a while longer.

News partner KCRG TV-9 caught up with Hamburg Inn General Manager Seth Dudley, which reopened Friday, after being closed for months, and reported a steady flow of customers.

“You have to weigh my staff and my customers’ safety with wanting to increase business,” Mr. Dudley told KCRG. While Mr. Dudley said he’ll choose health and safety over profit, his tough decision on reopening became easier thanks to two “road closed” signs sitting at either end of the Hamburg Inn’s block.

“This is kind of the best of both worlds,” Mr. Dudley said. “You can sit down, have a meal, but still be outdoors and enjoy the fresh air and feel a little safer while you’re doing it.”

The businesses on the block are calling it “Northside Outside,” or the Northside patio, and it works similarly to a food court, allowing customers to pick up food and drinks from different spots — including Hamburg Inn, Oasis Falafel, Goosetown Café, Brix Cheese Shop & Wine Bar, and Wild Culture Kombucha, along with other restaurants in the vicinity — and reconvene at the centralized tables.

The city will keep the patio area blocked off until the end of August. In the meantime, some businesses have added their own tables to the mix, while their staff is collaborating on the clean-up.

The Hamburg Inn manager said the patio has been a huge relief for him, as he doesn’t know when the restaurant will bring customers back inside.

“I was originally thinking of opening the dining room after the Fourth of July, but with the recent spike in cases, we might have to push that back,” he said.

Until then, like a handwritten sign installed above one of the “road closed” barricades announces, it’ll be “patio season” in the Northside. CBJ