Sidewalk dining may soon be option

It's hard to imagine choosing to eat outside these days, not with the scorching heat and high humidity that have blanketed Rock Hill for weeks. But downtown restaurant owners are hoping that when the weather finally turns cooler, customers will take kindly to the idea.

Old Town Bistro, Thi's Place on Main and the not-yet-open Citizen Corner are among the eateries planning to set up sidewalk tables as a way to attract more business. On Monday night, their plans earned the backing of City Council members, whose support was needed because the tables will use public property.

"The more people you have milling around people-watching, that just adds life," said Hall Dozier, who hopes to open Citizen Corner in the old Professional Building early next year.

McHale's Irish pub already has created a patio seating area on the sidewalk behind its building. Old Town Bistro offers street-side dining on special occasions, but co-owner Stacey Giannatos wants to add it as a regular option.

The Bistro started serving beer and liquor about a month ago, giving patrons more reason to stick around after their meals.

"When I do the Greek night and we have the tables outside, they're packed," she said. "People like to be outside. They can have a couple of beers, an appetizer, it's not too bad."

The hope is that outdoor dining also will appeal to Winthrop University students eager for new places to hang out. Students can bring laptops to take advantage of the Wi-Fi access that recently became available in downtown.

Sidewalk dining also fits into the city's efforts to put on more downtown festivals and evening events, including the new Every Thursday Downtown promotion and Main Street Live.

"Good weather's just around the corner," said longtime center-city booster Joe Sherrill, who sits on the Main Streets of Old Town association.