MILLBURN, NJ — Following the announcement in July that Main Street between Millburn Avenue and Essex Street would remain closed for all of August, diners have flocked into town to enjoy the cuisine and atmosphere of the space.
The downtown environment boasts a number of tables, and can be converted into a variety of different spaces for various activities. In order to hear from restaurateurs and diners about their experiences, TAPinto ventured to the site to ask them first hand.
For Davey Jones, the general manager of the Millburn Standard, the space has been a godsend for hosting customers, and has allowed the Standard to serve customers at a decent capacity through the pandemic.
"The town doing this is a huge help," Jones said. "Without this, we only have nine tables, and right now we have about 27 tables with the street closed...it actually winds up being the same if we could open up to 25 percent [indoor capacity]. It kind of is the same thing of what we're doing now, so it's like we're open inside, but outside."
Jones also said that the customers served have been excited about the space, saying that it is "like a little block party out here." He also noted that the downtown space fills with locals who have been wanting the street to be closed. He said that everybody has been positive about it and happy to be out.
One of those diners was Karime Diaz. Diaz, a Union resident who grew up next door in Springfield was there with her mom, Ana Zeik for lunch. Diaz said that she enjoyed her time eating in the space.
"It has opened up options," Diaz said. "It's really nice, because when I traveled to Europe, it was kind of sentimental [sic] to that...so it was really nice, and it's nice to be with my family and sharing time. It's a very difficult time now, so it's good to have at least this dining for now."
Across the street in lot 1, Naz and Sadije Husenaj, the co-owners of Cara Mia, were setting up for their evening sitting.
"It was a tremendous help," Naz said. "Our business was reduced down to 30 percent when we were just doing the curbside and takeout, and now we're doing about 70 percent, so it just about doubled what we're doing.
"We're not back to where we were, but it's just a tremendous help, and the township of Millburn has been so gracious and so helpful allowing us to use that space, we're just very thankful to them and everyone in the town."
He also noted that the space has come in handy, since the pandemic wiped out the restaurants' busy season. From April to July, the restaurant lost out on Paper Mill shows, baby showers, graduations and other celebrations that would bring customers in. While the space has allowed Naz to open back up, he is still hoping for better weather.