Mt. Pleasant Plans to Expand Outdoor Seating District This Year, Traverse City Will Not Close Front Street

The pandemic allowed communities to get creative with outdoor seating in their downtowns.

Last year, Mt. Pleasant closed a portion of Broadway Street for community members and local businesses. This year, they’re bringing it back by population demand.

“Having the ability to have them outside was huge for us,” says Chris Walton, owner of Max & Emily’s Bakery Café. “Outside of it being in the middle of a pandemic, anything that you can do to get people outside is a great thing.”

Walton says the closure of Broadway Street last year allowed him to serve more guests under the state’s indoor dining restrictions.

“People were using tables and chairs, they want to be outside, they want to be able to be socially distanced, say hello to a friend or share a meal together but you can’t do that inside of a restaurant,” says Walton.

The Mt Pleasant Downtown Development Authority (DDA) says the response from the community was overwhelming. That’s why, by popular demand, they’re planning to bring it back this year…

Michelle Sponseller, director of the Mt. Pleasant DDA, says, “Last year we were kind of in triage mode, just get this closed, get out some seating. But we didn’t worry too much about the appearance.”

Sponseller says they’re not only going to expand it, but add a little sparkle:

“We’re not just going to have picnic tables and umbrellas, but we’re going to be streaming some lights up outside, so it’s going to look really festive.”

The closure of Broadway Street to Union Street in Mt. Pleasant will start on May 1st and will continue until about mid-October.

Traverse City has decided not to close off a portion of Front Street like they did last year due to future road construction projects.

Jean Derenzy, CEO of the Traverse City DDA, says, “Those improvements really have an impact on traffic patterns, so this year will not be the same.”

But Derenzy says Traverse City is looking at other opportunities:

“Every community is different, and you need to work with the community that you are responsible for and the businesses that are there and work with them to know what’s the right approach for them.”