Chicagoans flock to stretch of Broadway closed off for pedestrians in Lake View

“It feels so great today. You can see the energy on the street,” said Martin Cournane, co-owner of Wilde Bar & Restaurant.

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A stretch of Broadway between Belmont and Diversey avenues is closed off for pedestrians as part of the city’s cautious reopening.

A stretch of Broadway between Belmont and Diversey avenues is closed off for pedestrians as part of the city’s cautious reopening.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Sarah Kraus was supposed to be on vacation in Italy now, with her buddy, Chelsea Stoyanoff.

Instead, the 30-somethings from Lake View found themselves sipping beers outside Dry Hop Brewers on Broadway on a blustery Friday.

“If I can’t be in Rome drinking wine and eating pizza, I guess being on a street drinking some beers in Chicago is as good a second best as you can get,” said Kraus, 31.

There were very few complaints, as long cooped-up Chicagoans flocked to a stretch of Broadway between Belmont and Diversey avenues closed off for pedestrians as part of the city’s cautious reopening.

Tables were all widely spaced apart and signs were posted every few feet, reminding patrons to wear masks.

“It feels so great today. You can see the energy on the street,” said Martin Cournane, co-owner of Wilde Bar & Restaurant. “The weather is beautiful. There’s a lot of hope from this. I’m really grateful to the mayor (Lori Lightfoot) for choosing us as one of the streets for this pilot program.”

Closing Broadway is part of the city’s Open Streets program. The city also is closing Rush Street between Oak and Cedar streets this weekend.

Dates for a third test area — 75th Street between King Drive and Prairie Avenue — haven’t been set.

Broadway was closed Friday to vehicle traffic to make room for outdoor dining and walking.

Broadway was closed Friday to vehicle traffic to make room for outdoor dining and walking.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Robin Jackson and her husband, Anthony Jackson, clinked plastic glasses filled with Long Island ice tea outside Wilde, waiting for their chicken wings to arrive.

“Oh my God, I’m so grateful for this because we’ve been inside for 2 1/2 months,” said Robin Jackson, 58, who lives downtown. “I have to be connected (to people). This is natural calmingness. The only thing that’s missing is the music. We feel very comfortable. We wouldn’t be out here if we didn’t.”

For Greg Shuff, who owns Dry Hop, the event Friday couldn’t have come soon enough. The shutdown had resulted in a 65% drop in business, he said.

“It was entirely unsustainable,” Shuff said. “Eventually, we would have gone out of business.”

It’s time for Chicagoans to learn how to “live with this thing and continue to move forward,” he said.

“And that does not mean sheltering in our houses until it’s over.”

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