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Why the town’s plan to close Love Lane to weekend traffic didn’t take shape this summer

Plans to close Love Lane to traffic have hit a dead end after the idea failed to gain the support of businesses along the one-block strip in Mattituck.

In June, the Southold Town Board approved a resolution to allow the closures every weekend through Halloween — a measure that was met with opposition from some business owners who felt it may do more harm than good.

Love Lane Sweet Shoppe co-owner Ashley Rutkowski said in an interview Monday that she felt the proposed closures weren’t justified. “The traffic going down Love Lane benefits us,” she said, noting that people driving by are offered a glimpse at the shops that dot the street.

“We’re entrepreneurs. We have to get creative.”

Carolyn Iannone

She also said they wouldn’t have opted to put tables outside for display.

“We have a great group of shopkeepers and it was well-intentioned,” said Mint clothing boutique owner Joanna Mazzella.

But she had some reservations about closing the street — a risk during an already uncertain season for business owners emerging from prolonged shutdowns due to the coronavirus. Ms. Mazzella also said she wasn’t planning to use the additional outdoor space to display merchandise.

The idea was initially discussed among members of the town’s Economic Development Committee and Mattituck Chamber of Commerce. Councilman Bob Ghosio, who is the board’s liaison to the EDC, said the board approved the resolution in order to give Love Lane businesses an option. “Everyone was trying to anticipate needs to reopen business depending on the governor’s phasing scenarios,” he said. “The Town Board wanted to ensure that the Love Lane businesses had the ability and the support to close the road if they needed the space to ensure the room for social distancing.”

While some retailers opposed the project, restaurants — which must operate at a reduced capacity — welcomed the idea. 

“I was really discouraged,” said Love Lane Kitchen owner Carolyn Iannone. “It was a time for us to all work together and at least just try it. We’re entrepreneurs. We have to get creative.”

She envisioned a walkable atmosphere that included both socially distant dining and shopping and fears neighboring businesses owners got caught up in the ‘what-ifs,’ doubting the plan’s viability.

“I understand why they were apprehensive,” Ms. Iannone said. “But it’s working in Greenport, it’s working in other towns. What if it was a huge success? We missed out on that opportunity for the whole summer now.”

In Greenport, local officials worked with the village Business Improvement District on a plan that ultimately closed a one-way section of Front Street and installed several parklets to create more outdoor space for businesses to utilize.

Riverhead’s business district adapted the popular ‘Alive on 25’ street fair to unveil ‘Dine on 25’ this year, which closes Main Street to vehicle traffic in an effort to give downtown restaurants more outdoor space. The fourth and final installment of the al fresco dining event is slated for Thursday, Aug. 27, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Supervisor Scott Russell said despite having “no clear consensus” from business owners, the option still exists.

“We are ready at any time, but we have to make sure it’s something all of the businesses want,” he said.