Closing Georgia Street to traffic presents ‘dilemma,’ ‘vibrancy’ for restaurants

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Crews shut down Georgia Street to traffic on Friday morning for visitors and restaurants to take advantage. It’s a throwback to some other big events.

Georgia Street was also similarly closed for the 2012 Super Bowl and, for most places, it was the single biggest week of sales in history.

After the barriers were put into place, crews began a major cleaning effort that included powerwashing the pavement from the Convention Center to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Connie Lee, general manager of Mikado Japanese Restaurant at the intersection of Georgia and Illinois Streets, said the month of March poses quite the dilemma. But more than being an employee at Mikado, it’s her family’s business.

“I’m very excited but also apprehensive,” Lee said.

A series of events including March Madness that feel prepandemic is happening amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“So many mixed emotions, it’s crazy,” Lee said. “We’re surviving. Definitely these things help, but at what cost?”

Her staff is down to 10 after having 20 a year ago, so adding seats outdoors onto Georgia Street isn’t as easy as usual. “It’s a dilemma,” Lee said. “Sushi is not something you can pick up in a few days to make.”

So for now, she’s staying cautious and will let the Big Ten tournament next week serve as a test run before March Madness the next weekend. “With that, we can feel the crowd we’re going to get,” Lee said.

Across the street at Harry & Izzy’s restaurant, management is going all in. “When you see the orange barriers and the physical signs,” said co-owner Craig Huse, “it gets exciting.”

They’re setting up a tent for walk-up service and a few tables, and beefing up staffing levels.

“To reactivate and spill out onto the street with service and product and vibrancy, I think we’re truly excited about,” Huse said.

Still expectations are lower. Instead of a normal Final Four, which is the biggest event usually outside of the Super Bowl, “now, under the COVID system of doing a tournament, we’re just hoping to have a normal 2019 sales week,” Huse said.

While Georgia Street will be closed to traffic until early April, no cross-streets are closed. Drivers can still cut through the fun on Illinois and Meridian streets. The final game of the Final Four will be April 5 in Lucas Oil Stadium.