Main Street, looking south from Congress Street.

A program approved Wednesday by Houston City Council will close parts of Main Street to vehicular traffic, opening up the space to restaurants and bars suffering during the Covid-19 pandemic.

More Space:

Main Street will close the artery for traffic between Commerce and Rusk streets, allowing eating and drinking establishments along that strip to expand their patios into the roadway. Each business has the option to expand, and if so, it will enclose its patio section on all sides with wood and/or metal fencing. Items like planter boxes or fencing will separate each patio from METRORail, which runs along the center of Main Street. The pedestrian sidewalk will remain open, as will cross streets.

Businesses that would be most impacted include bars like Lily & Bloom, Little Dipper, Shay McElroy's Irish Pub, Moonshiner's, Bovine & Barley, and Dean's Downtown, plus Local Foods Downtown, Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, Shake Shack, BirdDog Saint, and food hall Finn Hall. The program will take effect this year and continue through March 2022.

"Downtown is one of our premiere destinations. Between multiple city departments, the Downtown District and METRO, we put our heads together and considered every possible safety concern so Main Street businesses can maximize their capacity while still protecting the health and safety of our residents and visitors," said Mayor Sylvester Turner in a press release. "We hope that this creative and collaborative effort will continue to strengthen Downtown and serve as a model for future projects that encourage the confluence of commerce, residential space, entertainment and walkable communities in Houston."

The city approved the initial More Space plan on August 5, allowing restaurants to convert half of their off-street parking spaces to outdoor dining areas. Similar and related efforts have been instituted across the world in an effort to maintain social distancing while keeping businesses open during the pandemic.

More initiatives like More Space:

Main Street may come in handy in the near future, as restaurants and bars can remain open, despite a recent surge in new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations. On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced no statewide lockdowns were forthcoming even though the numbers climb.

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