Photo by Francesca Prado
By Mary Kate Sheppard, Staff Writer—
A section of Broad Street near the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga has a new look this month.
In the midst of a pandemic, the city of Chattanooga has found a way to support local businesses and provide a much needed boost to the downtown economy, which has been struggling with the restrictions put in place to fight COVID-19.
For the month of September, and possibly into October, a portion of Broad Street near the Tennessee Aquarium will be closing between Friday nights and Sunday afternoons. The original reason for this change was to allow the Chattanooga market to take place near the aquarium, but restaurants have also greatly benefited since the closures started. Now, restaurants are able to seat customers outside at a safe distance by extending the dining area into the road.
The change has helped these businesses stay afloat, and has generally created a livelier atmosphere in the downtown area.
Tiffany Barats is the manager of Mellow Mushroom, one of the restaurants affected by the closures.
“We love it,” Barats said. “With all of the usual festivals and activities cancelled this year, it’s been sadly empty, but the normal Chattanooga market is bringing some of those tourists back and closing Broad Street has helped out business tremendously!”
Barats talked about how grateful she felt about the renewed energy in downtown.
“Chattanooga is a tourist destination, especially with the riverfront,” she said. “No one wants to see these locally owned places go, and COVID will not take us.”
The weekend closing of Broad Street allows restaurants and businesses to expand their seating to the outside street. This allows more customers to dine-in without compromising their health or running the risk of spreading the virus.
“It’s an exciting experience,” Barats said. “I mean, how many people can say they can eat in the middle of the road. It makes for an exciting atmosphere on weekends with the Chattanooga market and outside dining and everything else going on.”
Since the closures have been so successful, there has not yet been a date set to reopen Broad Street on the weekends.