WINDSOR, ONT. -- Businesses on Erie Street are trying something new.

"It's definitely an exciting weekend for us," said May Hermiz, co-owner of Toast.

"It’s our first closure of six of the summer," said Filip Rocca, President of the Erie Street Business Improvement Association.

Throughout the via Italia neighbourhood, restaurant and bar owners are extending their patios into the streets on select weekends this summer, while other retailers stretch out to the sidewalks as well.

"We can’t obviously open dining just yet. So it gives us something to work with. It obviously has more business. It’s been great," said Hermiz.

Hermiz opened Toast on Erie Street four years ago, and is grateful for the opportunity to expand her restaurant capacity.

"We’ve definitely quadrupled our business outside. It’s been great honestly, the BIA has been amazing. It definitely gives us something to work with. We have more tables outside and more people coming in. We have takeout orders coming in."

Approved by city council, the Via Italia street expansion is one of many the city is launching to help struggling businesses recover from the pandemic. 

"It was a long and stressful time without being able to get outside and enjoy our community," Rocca said. "Now that the nice weather is here and we are allowed to operate in stage 2 safely, we’d love for people to come down to Windsor's little Italy and experience all that Via Italia has to offer."

"It’s just a minor setback that we had, but we’re gonna keep on continuing and moving to the right path," said Hermiz.

Dining at Toast on Saturday, owner of Mezzo Restaurant and Lounge and President of Via Italia BIA, Rocca says this street set up allows for more space for patios, sidewalk sales, and safer pedestrian access.

"The BIA is encouraging all merchants to be creative and put the product out on the street whatever it is," said Rocca. 

"Everyone’s loving it. We’re happy to be here. It’s a gorgeous sunny day today. We’re also happy. It’s good for business so it’s been great," said Hermiz.

Many patrons, like Slavisa Simovic would like to see more street closures across the city. 

"I think it’s a good thing, not only for Erie, but for the whole area and the city itself. If it was up to me I would extend it for the whole year," said Simovic. 

"We’re just so grateful. We’re blessed to be here. We’re blessed to be still in business,” said Hermiz 

The street closures begins at 5:00 p.m. on Friday evenings and continues Sunday nights at 11:00 p.m.

Rocca tells CTV News all mandated Ontario and local health and safety regulations regarding COVID-19 will be enforced during the street closures. 

Masks will be mandatory when entering and patronizing indoor businesses. 

Social distancing is required at all retailers, cafes and restaurants. 

Extra sanitary precautions will also be implemented throughout each workplace to ensure both staff and customers’ safety.

The full list of weekend closures are as follows:

  • July 10, 11, 12
  • July 17, 18, 19
  • July 31, August 1, August 2, August 3
  • August 21, August 22, August 23
  • August 28, 29, 30
  • September 11, 12, 13

"Come down and enjoy the street closures while they last," said Rocca.