Curbside Wilmington Succeeds in Helping Local Restaurants During the Pandemic
23 Nov 2021
The pandemic has been challenging for restaurants everywhere. In Wilmington, Delaware, leadership took action with Curbside Wilmington, an initiative that was launched in September 2020 and continues today. Downtown Visions together with Mayor Purzycki, the City of Wilmington, and The Committee of 100 introduced expanded outdoor dining to support local businesses and encourage patrons to return to the rejuvenated Downtown District. Eateries were permitted to repurpose parking spaces directly in front of their businesses for use as dining areas. Curbside pull-in spots were also designated throughout the Downtown area for all businesses, both retail and restaurants, to use for pick-up and curbside delivery.
“With so many obstacles and challenges that the restaurants faced during the pandemic, Curbside Wilmington offered a safe space to dine while extending the seating footprint to allow customers to feel safe while supporting local businesses,” said Lani Schweiger, Main Street Wilmington Director and Senior Brand Marketing Manager. “Curbside Wilmington showed an overall improvement in participating Downtown restaurant sales, with more than 71 percent reporting significant increases and 57 percent reporting week to week sales improvements. Further, many restaurants reported employee retention, hiring of new employees, improved vendor relations and cycles, and positive customer feedback as benefits of Curbside Wilmington.”
“This initiative would not have been a success without its partners,” said Schweiger. “The Office of Economic Development was vital in expediting the processing of applications and licenses necessary for expanded patios and alcohol sales. They were able to make sure that all of our restaurants Citywide received custom-made railings to ensure expanded outdoor spaces looked cohesive and attractive. They helped to maintain communications between the various City departments that were necessary for making Curbside Wilmington a success.”
Downtown Visions, Wilmington’s Main Street program, provided additional tables and chairs to restaurants as needed, and participants in the Challenge Program crafted custom-made railings.
“The Challenge Program is a fantastic local program that works with Delaware’s at-risk youth to provide skills needed to advance in the workplace,” said Schweiger. “They were very helpful in creating railings that worked for our restaurants’ needs, and the custom-made wooden railings offered a consistent look with a rustic esthetic that added to our Downtown environment.”
After the launch of expanded outdoor dining Downtown, the City expanded the initiative to include Union Street and Trolley Square’s Dining on Delaware through “It’s Time to G.O.A.T (Get Out Around Town)." The initiative included organizing and/or promoting entertainment series like live music, outdoor theater productions, quiz nights, and much more.
“Curbside Wilmington Happy Hours were part of the ‘It’s Time to G.O.A.T.’ campaign designed to bring the best of outdoor dining and entertainment to the City of Wilmington while working with our presenting sponsor JP Morgan Chase and partners,” said Schweiger. “The G.O.A.T. campaign brought all Citywide events together under one umbrella allowing marketing and promotions to reach a larger audience while maintaining consistency.”
Curbside Wilmington is still going strong. “The City of Wilmington has extended the Curbside Wilmington outdoor dining permits through March 2022,” said Schweiger. “Most restaurants will serve fantastic meals while customers enjoy indoor seating. Several restaurants will continue to offer outdoor dining to guests who prefer being outside including Chelsea Tavern, Bardea, and Stitch House.”
“The mission of Downtown Visions is to create, manage, and promote a quality environment for people who live, work, and visit Downtown Wilmington,” said Schweiger. “Curbside Wilmington was a great example of the DTV’s mission in action and the Office of Economic Development’s leadership and participation in the effort was integral to the program’s success.”