ROGERS PARK — The city will allow Jarvis Avenue businesses to close the street for expanded outdoor dining, reversing a decision to have diners and drivers share the road in a set-up that worried some business owners.
Jarvis Avenue is one of 11 city streets that have been approved for the new expanded outdoor dining program, which allows restaurants to extend seating into the roadway. But unlike the city’s other expanded dining areas, Jarvis Avenue businesses were told to keep a lane of the street open to traffic.
That didn’t sit well with some of the participating businesses, who worried about safety and said having car traffic so close to diners made for an unpleasant experience.
The Chicago Department of Transportation, however, said Wednesday that it will allow for the full closure of Jarvis Avenue.
“After the first weekend of partially closing Jarvis, we came to agree that allowing through traffic was unworkable,” a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said in a statement. “New permits were issued yesterday that include the full closure of Jarvis.”
The closure of Jarvis will be implemented on Friday, as the permit for the street closure is only for weekend business hours.
The decision to allow for the full street closure came after business owners, neighborhood leaders and city officials met Tuesday to seek a compromise.
For the first weekend of Jarvis’ expanded outdoor dining, the street was fully closed, but heavy rains meant the program was essentially washed out.
For last weekend’s expanded dining, public safety officials told Jarvis businesses that a lane of traffic on the street was to be opened to traffic.
The effect was car traffic driving right next to diners, the only barrier between the two being some traffic cones and wooden “horses.” The situation worried business owners like Sandra Carter, who co-owns Taste Food & Wine and spent $300 on signage to get drivers to slow down and help keep pedestrians out of the open lane of traffic.
“You see traffic just barreling down,” said Carter said last week. “We’re not comfortable with it. I’m absolutely terrified.”
The configuration of Jarvis Square made the area’s expanded outdoor dining permit look unique. A neighboring storage business requires car access, and an adjacent strip mall has one of its entrances/exits off of Jarvis.
The Jarvis “L” stop being in the middle of the street also complicates matters. Local police officials asked for one lane of traffic to remain open on the east end of Jarvis to maintain emergency access to the stop.
But the resulting dining configuration did not please any of the parties involved, with both police and business owners worried about the lack of barriers between the lane of traffic and diners.
“I didn’t like the set-up either,” said a local police official who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak on the matter. “The side face of the seating is kind of open, and that’s kind of scary. It’s a work in progress.”
Allowing for expanded outdoor dining could be a big boost for the Jarvis Square businesses. At R Public House and Taste Food & Wine, the extra space allows them to nearly triple their seating capacity on the weekends.
The Jarvis Avenue expanded outdoor dining program runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.