• Rob Hornberger

Open Streets set for Saturday, town plans expanded event as COVID-19 restrictions ease

Extra patio space will be a 'godsend' for downtown restaurants, bars

Patio tables take over Kingsville's main drag during last year's Open Streets. This year's event, which begins Saturday, will see an expanded lineup of participating businesses and vendors as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

KINGSVILLE — Kingsville is going ahead with Open Streets this Saturday, but plans to expand the event have been put on hold until more COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

The town has taken control of the event, allowing businesses outside the downtown core to set up booths on Main and Division streets

“We’re going to start with what is possible,” said Coun. Laura Lucier.

“We’re going to be flexible and include additional activities and things as they are allowed.”

In the first stage of the planned reopening, the province is allowing outdoor patios, but limiting the number of people per table to four.

“It was successful last year and once again, unfortunately, it’s going to be an only option for some businesses that don’t have outside sitting,” said Trevor Loop, operations manager for the Banded Goose brewpub.

“Saturdays, so long as the weather co-operates, will be a godsend for them.”

Lee and Maria’s, a fruit and vegetable market on County Road 20, and Cottam Candy, which sells cotton candy, homemade candy apples, popcorn, snow cones and lemonade, are two businesses outside the downtown core that will be participating this summer in Open Streets. Last year, the Downtown BIA operated Open Streets and limited participation to downtown businesses.

“I’m excited,” said Kathy Mastronardi-Black, owner of Lee and Maria’s. “It’s something cool the town is doing that we want to be part of it.”

She said she won’t be participating this week because she is still waiting on the construction of a portable booth.

Mastronardi-Black said the Open Streets booth will be a departure from Lee and Marie’s, which also sells a wide variety of gourmet and speciality foods

She said the booth’s offering will be a “cool and refreshing” beverage but gave no further details. “I want it to be a surprise.”

“The lack of socialization, the lack of being around people, you can feel it. We really need to get back together.”

Coun. Tony Gaffan, who along with Lucier serves on the Open Streets advisory committee, said the event will be a plus for local businesses, but also for Kingsville residents and visitors weary of the on-again, off-again lockdowns.

“The lack of socialization, the lack of being around people, you can feel it. We really need to get back together,” he said.

Gaffan and Lucier said the committee has to walk a fine line between business owners who want Open Streets to open earlier Saturday and those who complain the event is taking up valuable on-street parking.

“If this is something that is going to go forward into the future — which I hope it will. I think there will be an opportunity to collect feedback and suggestions on how to make it bigger and better,” Lucier said.

She said she hopes visitors to Open Streets will show up before the 4 p.m. start so they can visit businesses that aren’t setting up outdoor patios. Open Streets closes at 10:30 p.m.

Joseph Dawalibi, manager of Wineology, said he is booked solid for Saturday and had to turn away 60 requests for tables.

He said Open Streets will allow his wine bar to almost double its patio space.

“It’s going to be a big help. I wish we could do it all weekend,” Dawalibi said.

Karen Loney, the town’s manager of recreation programs, specialty events and tourism, said Open Streets volunteers and new vendors can contact the town at specialevents@kingsville.ca.

Loney said more vendors are ready to participate as restrictions ease.

“There are other vendors that want to participate that are … in the stands waiting,” she said.

The Kingsville Folk Festival is also looking to provide live music for Open Streets once restrictions on large gatherings are lifted.

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