Even if it looks a little different due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, an in-person event on Main Street has received the OK to commence this weekend. 

The City Council Planning and Development subcommittee unanimously approved a special event permit to close down Main Street to cars in order for the city and Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce to host a "Shop, Stroll, and Dine" event on Saturday, July 18. 

The special council permit states that the event will be from 5 to 9 p.m., with closures of Main Street from Pleasant Street to the West End and side streets including Hancock, Short, Center and Porter in place from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

"This city has always partnered for the past several of years with the chamber on block parties and is thrilled to do that again this year," the city's Community Development Director Jill Cahill said. "Obviously, we have had to switch gears tremendously and understand the importance of not hosting an event that would create crowds or gatherings or singing or anything against the guidelines of the Commonwealth."

The impetus for Saturday's event was finding a way to support local businesses during a difficult time caused by COVID-19 prevention measures. 

The event's goal is "to create something to provide some opportunity to our Main Street businesses to come out and have dining outside and sales outside in a way that allows for additional space for queueing for lines," Cahill explained. 

Executive Director at North Shore Health Project Susan Gould-Coviello emphasized that this event is only for Main Street businesses and restaurants. 

Keeping it fun, keeping it safe

While the motion came to the Planning and Development subcommittee to get the proper permits in order to close down specific streets, a bulk of the conversation was about how to foster a safe environment.

"Hopefully this is going to be a great way of giving everyone the opportunity to do that," Ward 2 City Councilor Barry Pett said, explaining the excitement around creating an opportunity to provide business to those that have suffered during the pandemic. 

According to city ordinances, public restrooms are required to be open and the city is planning on communicating with DPW of the potential of porta-potties. 

"The restaurants are required to have their restrooms open for their patrons so we know that group of people are covered," Cahill said.  

Councilor-at-Large Jen Holmgren emphasized the need to keep foot traffic flow orderly, as this past weekend's volume was "pretty chaotic." 

"I want to explore every option to make sure this is as safe as possible for everyone," she said. 

Cahill and Gould-Coviello confirmed that there will be two volunteer tables hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and Discover Gloucester that will be handing out masks and directing visitors. 

As those involved in the planning will continue to brainstorm up until Saturday to ensure a safe and fun time for all who attend, there are some measures that are for certain. 

No music, street performers, outside vendors or other areas of gatherings will be allowed and masks will be required inside and outside of businesses. 

"We feel confident that we can do this," Cahill emphasized. "This isn't a party, this is a stroll."

"Take a walk down Main Street and enjoy and support our businesses," she added. 

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@gloucestertimes.com.

EVENT RULES

As this is the first organized city event since the novel coronavirus pandemic hit Gloucester, the City Council's Planning and Development Subcommittee had the following conditions attached to the approved special city permit: 

- No merchant set-ups on sidewalks blocking entrance ways to retail or residential units, hydrants, cross walks, or handicap ramps. 

- No outside vendors; this includes other Gloucester-based businesses and non-profits. 

- No live music or other form of entertainment.

- The organizers shall allow the Fire Department drive-through access with a fire engine at the convenience of the Fire Department. 

- All of the side streets — Short, Porter, Center and Hancock — shall not be blocked by food establishments, tables, chairs, closure equipment or vehicles so emergency vehicles may enter and exit Main Street as needed.

- Merchants shall be responsible for their own trash removal.

- Plumbing codes and regulations shall be adhered to regarding the use of restroom/bathroom facilities.

- Special lighting and electrical requirements necessitate approval of the inspector of buildings and the electrical inspector.

- The closure of the street at the intersection of Main and Short, Porter, Center and Hancock must by means of saw horses or the like directed by the Police Department.

- It is the responsibility of the "Shop, Dine, and Stroll" Committee to procure any other necessary federal, state, and local permits and approvals associated with this event.

- The committee make reasonable notification for all residents and merchants along the route that will be affected by the closure.

- All other applicable laws, city ordinances, and/or regulations are in full force including ordinances regarding blocking of sidewalks. Police will enforce these requirements in the interest of public safety 

- The "Shop, Dine and Stroll" Committee shall also adhere to any requirements expressed by the special event advisory committee including that (a) a letter from the office of the Mayor be provided assuring that this event is covered under the city of Gloucester liability insurance and, (b) this approval is based on "Shop, Dine, and Stroll" 2020 street plans submitted to the City Clerk's office, (c) must follow the guidelines of the CDC and the local Board of Health for social distancing. Masks are required in any business and strongly encouraged for people walking on Main Street. 

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