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HUNTINGTON — Beginning Labor Day weekend, a portion of 9th Street in downtown Huntington will be closed to give restaurants a chance to expand outdoor dining on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The city of Huntington will close the southbound lane of 9th Street between 3rd and 4th avenues to traffic at 3 p.m., and outdoor dining will be from 5 to 11 p.m., with the street expected to reopen by midnight once tables are cleared.

The five restaurants in the vicinity, Summit Beer Station, Sip Downtown Brasserie, Marshall Hall of Fame Cafe, Bodega Market and Cafe and Paula Vega Cakes, all support the street closure, citing indoor seating limitations due to COVID-19.

“It’s been a frustrating couple months with operating at 50% capacity. During weekends, we’ve become accustomed to having to turn away just as many customers as we serve in order to comply with indoor dining guidelines,” Jeff McKay, owner of Summit Beer Station, said in a news release. “I am immensely grateful for Mayor Williams’ support over the course of this pandemic, and my staff and I are excited to offer expanded, socially distanced seating that will hopefully allow us to return to the type of weekend business we were used to seeing prior to the pandemic.”

Allison White, owner of Sip Downtown Brasserie, said the additional space on 9th Street could possibly accommodate about 20 to 30 customers while maintaining a safe distance.

“We’re all very excited to be able to have the extra dining space. We do have our existing outdoor covered space; however, it’s small and we can only seat about 12 people out there right now,” White said. “I hope this continues for a while. It’s fun, too, that the other businesses on 9th Street are participating. It will make it so nice for the community because it’s not just one location.”

The city has enacted other initiatives throughout the pandemic to assist local businesses, and Mayor Steve Williams said the street closure helps support those downtown restaurants that have been faced with a slew of difficult adjustments since March.

“Our eclectic mix of locally owned restaurants is an integral reason why our downtown has become such a vibrant destination,” Williams said in the release. “The COVID-19 pandemic has forced restaurateurs to adjust their business model. The city of Huntington is committed to helping them in any way possible.”

Participating restaurants must follow social distancing guidelines, and no outside vendors will be permitted to set up on the closed portion of 9th Street. Live music will also be prohibited to discourage large gatherings.

Follow reporter Hanna Pennington via Twitter @hpennHD.

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