It’s ‘patio season!’ as Iowa City closes off street to promote outdoor dining

Published: Jun. 28, 2020 at 8:39 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The staff at Hamburg Inn No. 2 is getting back into the swing of things after being closed to customers for more than three months. The downtown Iowa City staple said it experienced a steady flow of carry-out orders after reopening its door Friday.

But the only ones sitting at the restaurant’s tables, for now, are the chairs flipped upside down and hanging along the edge, as dine-in service isn’t back on the Hamburg Inn’s menu yet.

“You have to weigh my staff and my customers’ safety with wanting to increase business,” General Manager Seth Dudley said.

While Dudley said he’ll choose health and safety over profit, his tough decision on reopening became easier about a week ago, thanks to two “road closed” signs sitting at either end of the Hamburg Inn’s block on N. Linn St. Where cars could normally drive and park, the City of Iowa City has blocked off to traffic and temporarily added plants and socially-distanced picnic tables, to encourage the local restaurants’ carry-out customers to stay a little while longer.

“This is kind of the best of both worlds,” 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.

“All the business owners are kind of chipping in and working together to make sure it stays clean and sanitary,” Dudley said.

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, 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.

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