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This city may become one large outdoor café

(CNN) — Restaurants, cafés and bars in the Old Town of Vilnius, Lithuania, used to be fortunate to have a sidewalk table or two as part of their overall business operations.

But in a concerted effort to keep businesses such as these afloat, Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius has put a generous spin on the city’s outdoor dining scene.

On the city’s plazas, squares and streets, “nearby cafés will be able to set up outdoor tables free of charge this season and thus conduct their activities during quarantine,” Šimašius said in a recent news release.

Outdoor public spaces, including the iconic Cathedral Square, will become temporary homes to some of Vilnius’ food and beverage establishments. Eighteen such spaces have been proffered at this time with the possibility for more down the line.

Cafés and restaurants choosing to reopen can serve only outdoor diners and must maintain social distancing rules between customers, per Lithuania’s Health Ministry.

Vilnius' outdoor public spaces, including the iconic Cathedral Square, will house some of the capital city's food and beverage establishments.

Vilnius’ outdoor public spaces, including the iconic Cathedral Square, will house some of the capital city’s food and beverage establishments.

Saulius Žiūra

The mayor’s announcement came weeks into the city’s lockdown and thus was met with enthusiasm by restaurateurs and residents alike, according to the news release.

“Vilnius’ offer to help our cafés and restaurants came just in time,” Evada Šiškauskienė, head of the Lithuanian Association of Hotels and Restaurants, is quoted in the release. “This additional space will help them accommodate more visitors and bring life back to the city streets without violating security requirements.”

This isn’t the first time the Lithuanian capital has made the news because of a bold initiative.

Following an X-rated marketing campaign last year that put the seldom-visited country on the map for many, tourism numbers shot up. Germany and the United Kingdom — main markets for the controversial campaign with the tag line “Vilnius: The G-Spot of Europe” — saw a visitor increase of 37.8% and 20.5% respectively.

Depending on those and other European countries’ lockdown states, Vilnius could yet again see an increase in visitors thanks to this latest move — at least once travel restrictions are loosened.

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