Galena council declines to expand Main Street closure

GALENA, Ill. — Galena City Council members this week declined a request to expand the closure of Main Street.

Council members voted 4-3 to deny a request by the owner of Big Bill’s Sandwich Shop & Coffee Bar to close an additional section of Main Street, starting from the intersection with Franklin Street and extending roughly a half-block, to the end of the police station. Council members Katie Wienen, Pam Bernstein and Marc McCoy voted in favor of the request.

Last year, council members approved closing Main Street from Hill to Franklin streets in response to state-mandated prohibitions on indoor dining, which were prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants in that area were allowed to open up outdoor dining spaces outside their eateries.

In December, council members voted to renew the street closure for the 2021 spring and summer season. It will stay in effect until October.

Jack Deiter, the owner of Big Bill’s, 301 Main St., said the current closure gives some downtown restaurants an unfair advantage by providing them a more attractive area for tourists to walk around, along with free outdoor dining space.

“The 300 block is the forgotten block of Main Street,” Deiter said. “Trucks are able to drive through all the time, and a lot of people are going to want to stay where it is closed off.”

Deiter said he believes if downtown restaurants on Main Street are going to be given street space for outdoor dining, then that same privilege should be given to other downtown restaurants.

He added that the closure of Main Street has prompted high levels of traffic to travel on Franklin Street, making it harder for residents to cross the road over to his and other businesses on the block.

Council members were split on the proposal.

Council Member Pam Bernstein said she believes the street closure should be allowed in order to be fair to all Main Street businesses.

“We are being a bit unfair to those businesses because they don’t have the same advantage as the other businesses,” she said.

However, Mayor Terry Renner opposed the request over concerns of further eliminating downtown parking options. Renner originally opposed the proposal to close any portion of Main Street.

“We don’t want to wipe out all the parking,” he said. “Right now, everything is starting to come back to life. I personally say we should open up Main Street.”

Deiter said he is frustrated with the council’s decision but added that he still intends to fight to have the section of Main Street closed.

“I’m planning to deal with it,” he said. “I will continue to fight for my block to be closed.”