New Brunswick's George Street Closed to Traffic Starting May 21

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New Brunswick's George Street Closed to Traffic Starting May 21

Outdoor Dining, Shopping Returning to Downtown New Brunswick Through Nov. 5

George Street will be closed to traffic between Albany and Bayard streets as outdoor dining returns to City Center on Sunday, May 21.

George Street will be closed to motorists through Sunday, Nov. 5, after the City Council voted to adopt ordinance 052303 at its May 17 meeting.

According to the corresponding resolution, restaurants and retail businesses will have to pay an application fee to utilize the space in front of their establishments. The fees range from $100 for under 300 square feet of street area to $400 for more than 900 square feet.

Businesses may request permission to utilize adjacent spaces that are not in use by the businesses that front that space.

Businesses will be able to utilize the outdoor spaces Sundays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays until midnight.

Restaurants and taverns may have outdoor live music until 10 p.m., or the close of business, whichever is earlier, provided it does not create a “nuisance condition” which shall be determined by the New Brunswick Police Department.

Cannabis dispensaries, including Earth & Ivy (which opened on Saturday, May 20) and Puffin (which is scheduled to open early this summer), are prohibited from using the outdoor spaces.

One resident at the May 17 City Council meeting voiced his concern that the closure of George Street would cause traffic issues on surrounding streets, and another suggested that the addition of public seating and tables would also increase foot traffic.

Michael Tublin, a city resident, called the closing of George Street to traffic “a breath of fresh air.”

“It’s an attraction,” he said. “It draws people from other towns, cities, and states to come. The city’s alive and there’s a heartbeat going when the street has been closed and the people are outdoors. It brings tenfold the number of people that there would be otherwise if the street was open as it is now, which has now turned into a sort of parking lot for Uber Eats or whatever (delivery service) that are now stopped on George Street. This will alleviate that and give us another great reason to come visit our city.”

Another resident, Anderson Hernandez, said New Brunswick should join other municipalities such as Asbury Park and Jersey City, which have created outdoor dining and shopping areas.

“I have a wife, I have a child, I have a daughter, and it’s awesome to not have my daughter screaming inside of a restaurant and bothering everyone,” he said.

George Street has been open to motorists since Oct. 24, 2022.

Before that, the city moved to make George Street an outdoor plaza of sorts at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when restaurants were hit hard by state-mandated capacity restrictions and even dining room closures at the outset of the health crisis. The main road through City Center’s restaurant, retail, and arts district was closed to motorists after Mayor Jim Cahill signed Executive Order 2020-02 on June 26, 2020.

As the waves of coronavirus cases rose and fell, outdoor dining in City Center proved popular. Live music filled the air and locals gathered for Rutgers football watch parties.

Doug Schneider, the Chairman of City Center’s Board of Directors, said at the council meeting that an architectural survey of the downtown area is being conducted with an eye on the permanent closure of those three blocks of George Street to traffic.

He said the study will look at such factors as trash management and general public safety and would be presented to the board within the next month. In response to a question about public seating and tables, he said the study will explore the possibility of creating public spaces.

Schneider, who owns and operates Tavern on George and Clydz, said the study could demonstrate that any potential redesign will stimulate job growth in City Center throughout the year, not just during its busy season from September through May.

Story By: Chuck O'Donnell
Photo Credit: TAPinto New Brunswick