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Lots of open tables during first dinner ‘rush’ in months in downtown Indy

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Friday saw the first legal restaurant seating in Marion County in almost 10 weeks.

A lot of people with cabin fever were ready to support their local businesses. But still there were a lot of empty seats during what is often the dinner rush, especially on a Friday night.

Businesses hope as word gets out, more people will come out.

For Amanda Gargano and her family, it was a moment worth capturing with a selfie. They were eating out together on the first night possible.

“We were just excited that everything opened up tonight and we wanted to come downtown and eat outside,” Gargano said.

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The sign at Buca di Beppo’s says it all: “We’re Back.”

While the staff is wearing masks as required, few of the patrons were on Friday evening.

Still, on the first night of the first dinner rush possible on perhaps the nicest evening in weeks, there were plenty of open tables to be had.

“I missed 10 weeks of not eating out and being in the home, so we were excited that things are safe and things were open again,” Gargano said.

Another photo taken at the restaurant was of Kelvin Quang and his friends, Jessie Garza and Quetzalcoatl Sanchez-Gaspar. The trio are now IUPUI graduates and just took their graduation photos with their sashes before dinner.

“Eating food at a restaurant, sitting down, it’s pretty weird experience for something that should be normal,” Quang said.

There were a few other signs of normalcy, too: Horse-drawn carriages were back out on the streets and even two of the pedal pub companies were out looking for customers.

Making this happen hasn’t been easy for restaurants who got the word from the mayor on Wednesday and rushed to open less than 48 hours later.

Some places, like Ruth’s Chris on Illinois Street, were not open for seating on the street while at P.F. Chang’s next door, there were plenty of open tables.

“The turnout wasn’t what we planned, but it’s still been an OK turnout,” said P.F. Chang’s manager Kalob Balentine.

Balentine said revenue is down about 60% here, like so many other places News 8 has talked to in recent months.

While there is seating outdoors, the barriers make it more difficult for delivery drivers, cutting into their revenue in the last few days. Still, Balentine hopes momentum will build through the holiday weekend and beyond, just like it did in the last 10 weeks for takeout which was almost nonexistent at the beginning.

“I really hope that people hear that we’re doing it and start making their way down to this part of the city,” Balentine said.

It was a whirlwind two days for him and other restaurant managers who scrambled to call their staff back, some who don’t have childcare available right now, some who are in a new state, some which have found new jobs.

Restaurants had to get their plans approved by the city Thursday so they could open Friday.

As for alcohol sales, it can be allowed as long as the bar itself is indoors.

For diners who did make their way down to Illinois, it was nice to not cook and not have to clean up afterwards.

“It does feel good,” Quang said.

“Nice to get back to real life,” adds Gargano.

After the sun went down, the number of people really picked up. Around 10 p.m., conditions were the busiest downtown it’s been in months with a number of cars, motorcycles and walkers.

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