Open Streets in downtown Greensboro debuted last weekend and was such a success it will continue through August and into September.

“We’re Closing It Down to Open it Up,” the slogan Downtown Greensboro Inc. (DGI) is using for the event, may explain why closing South Elm Street to vehicular traffic is called “Open Streets.”

The idea behind Open Streets is to help restaurants and retail establishments survive the COVID-19 related executive orders that restrict them to 50 percent of their capacity or less, based on the social distancing guidelines. By closing South Elm Street, those restaurants and businesses are able to expand out on to the sidewalk giving the restaurants more seating capacity and the businesses more room for customers.

Also in this coronavirus era many people are much more comfortable dining and shopping outside where there is less likelihood the coronavirus will be transmitted.

Closing the streets opens them up for pedestrians to stroll around, keeping a safe social distance and wearing masks.

DGI President Zack Matheny said, “We recognize that our restaurants and retailers are in pure survival mode, so we are trying our best to think out of the box to help them.”

Matheny added, “The idea of closing down Elm Street is not new, so our conversations were about how to coordinate with businesses to make it successful. Examples of new really cool outside dining like B. Christopher’s and White & Wood are terrific examples of creating novel places for folks to enjoy while keeping their social distance.”

Matheny said that the event was being extended to at least the first week of September because “The businesses that participated saw significant business increase. We want this to continue and want the outside dining to become permanent.”

Open Streets will close South Elm Street between Market Street and Lewis Street to vehicular traffic on Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 9 p.m. through Saturday, Sept. 5.

On Fridays, the street will actually start closing down at 4 p.m. to give the people time to move parked cars out of the area by 6 p.m.