Essex Junction downtown business outside

The Village of Essex Junction Board of Trustees is allocating $10,000 for a three-day event aimed at helping out downtown businesses.

Open and Outside is scheduled for August 14-16 and will allow village residents to use vouchers for anything except alcohol, tobacco, and vaping products from anywhere in the Village Center District -- the area stretching from Iroquois Street to Central Street and Railroad Street to School Street.

“Residents of, and businesses in, Vermont have worked hard to mitigate the spread of Covid 19,” read an announcement on the Downtown Essex Junction Facebook page. “As the Governor continues to ‘loosen the spigot,’ there is an opportunity to publicly acknowledge this fact and give residents and businesses a helping hand in celebrating the return of business activity in the Village Center.”

Each of the 1,000 vouchers that will be available are valued at $10 with each household in the village being eligible to apply for one. They can be picked up from the Village of Essex Junction Community Development Department -- with proof of approved application and residency -- from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on August 12 or 3-6 p.m. August 13.

The application can be found at essexvt.org/openandoutside or by contacting Community Development Director Robin Pierce at (802) 878-6950.

“It's just a sort of celebration of people working together during this period of time and trying to get them to come out and down to the Central District and enjoy themselves,” said Pierce when he initially pitched the idea at the trustees’ June 17 meeting. “It's a way for the municipality to thank the residents and to bolster the business -- if only in a small way. The idea of using the penny on the dollar money was that it's to encourage economic development.”

It’s that budget line being used which is setting the boundaries of which businesses can be involved in the August event.

The Village Downtown Economic Development Fund -- referred to as the “penny on the dollar” funds -- was approved by voters four years ago and adds an additional cent to the village’s general fund tax rate. The money raised through it is set aside for downtown infrastructure improvements, real estate purchases that enable redevelopment and revitalization of the downtown, and to encourage economic activities that bring people to the village center.

Pierce said during that trustees meeting that he expects some vendors in the downtown area to put $10 specials on their menus just for Open and Outside.

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