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Outdoor Dining Area Closes In EL, Cars Back On Albert St.

Albert Street photo
Taylor Haelterman
Picnic tables had been installed on Albert Street for hungry restaurant patrons during the pandemic. The tables have come down and cars have returned.

An open-air dining area in downtown East Lansing has come down and motorized traffic has resumed.

With lots of restaurants closing temporarily or permanently during the pandemic, the city of East Lansing had shut down vehicle traffic on Albert Street. Picnic tables went up in the street, giving patrons a place to sit outdoors after getting food from nearby businesses.

HopCat general manager Bryan Ponke says it’s been a positive thing for his restaurant. “We have used our garage windows to sell take-out food right out the window," Ponke explains. "The guests go sit at the picnic tables, so we love it. We’ve really appreciated it these last few months.”

Now, Ponke supports the move to take the tables down, saying he doesn’t think it would be good to have it open when MSU students return to town. 

City Manager George Lahanas was pleased with the results, adding that the city had planned all along to restore motorized traffic by August 15th, prior to the return of MSU students. “With it becoming busier downtown, more traffic downtown, more foot traffic and car traffic, we felt it was the right time," Lahanas continues. "There’s also going to be more customers downtown anyway, so there’s less need to have this amenity to attract customers.”

Lahanas says the tables might return to Albert Street next summer.

The city is reminding visitors that masks are now required both indoors and outdoors downtown.

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