'Promising signs' downtown Raleigh business is bouncing back

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- You will find "We Are Open" signs draped outside many downtown Raleigh businesses these days. Owners are desperate for customers and any bit of business.

Foot traffic is slowing picking up. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance, or DRA, said it's a promising sign the area is starting to bounce back.

Places such as Garland Restaurant are reopening.

"This entire sidewalk is going to have a bamboo fence," said Garland owner Cheetie Kumar.

The James Beard-nominated chef is preparing to hit the restart button for dine-in service after a six-month hiatus.

The Pan-Asian restaurant opens Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Kumar is taking reservations now and sticking to an alfresco atmosphere for the time being.

"All the tables will be six feet apart," she explained.

Kumar is excited to start serving again and getting business back on track.

"It's been pretty scary, but we've tried a lot of different pivots. That's the magic word for the year," Kumar said.

This comes as many other small businesses are closing because of the pandemic.

Reuben's NY Deli and Art of Style are a couple of the casualties.

Kimbrell's Furniture on Fayetteville Street is going out of business.

The DRA said COVID-19 has certainly dealt a blow to the downtown, but the city is still making strides.

President and CEO Bill King reported three consecutive weekends of increased sales. He said hotel occupancy rates remain high.

The organization's recent State of Downtown Raleigh report shows that since 2005, there have been $3.4 billion in economic development.

The report said, "In 2020, despite an international pandemic and a national economic downturn, Downtown Raleigh's growth has continued in every asset class. The development pipeline remains full of new and exciting projects that will continue to place Downtown Raleigh among the fastest growing downtowns in the country."

Efforts are being made to help Main Street through this turbulent time.

DRA has launched a Storefront Revitalization Grant Program.

"We're not at all blinded," said King. "We know there are a lot of challenges right now."

People who apply to the grant program can get up to $5,000.
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