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Downtown New Bedford is taking on a new look, as the city has begun construction of street parklets in the cobblestone district and on parts of Acushnet Avenue. The parklets are designed to extend the sidewalk area in front of some of the city's most popular restaurant spots, allowing more space for outdoor dining.

Listen to Michael and Maddie's interview with Jess Arruda, owner of Tia Maria's European Café:

The pilot program has been in the works since April and is targeted to benefit some of the locations that received high ranks in a survey collected by Mayor Mitchell's re-opening group, including Café Arpeggio, Greasy Luck, Whaler's Tavern, Café Mimo and Tia Maria's European Café.

Arruda joined Michael and Maddie this morning to talk about what it has meant for her restaurant.

"We used the parklets this weekend. They instantly cut our wait time from 45 minutes to 15 minutes," she said.

Prior to the construction, Tia Maria's was able to fit five tables on the sidewalk outside of the restaurant. Paired with the socially-distanced tables inside, the parklets allowed Tia's to fit an additional four tables, which brought them back up to what their capacity would have been before COVID.

Arruda said she is already looking ahead to the challenges that the winter weather will bring to her business during the pandemic. She said she has plans to extend the outdoor seating option as far as she can. By utilizing heaters in the seating area, she hopes to offer outdoor seating until at least the first snowfall.

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