KITCHENER -- The City of Stratford has extended a pilot project allowing people to eat and drink outside to the end of October.

The project, called Stratford Al Fresco, started this summer to boost tourism and local businesses.

It might not be a festival, but restaurants said the project is giving them a boost amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program kicked off in June, with tables set up at Market Square and on Tom Patterson Island.

"Most recently, we've added the addition of being able to have alcohol takeout from local restaurants and have those permitted in these areas," said Zac Gribble, executive director of Stratford Tourism.

Alcohol must be purchased from a restaurant with takeout food and can't be in glass. The drinks also need to have an Al Fresco label with the restaurant's name.

Stratford police said there haven't been any incidents since the project began and added people have been respectful, cooperative and responsible.

"It's been hugely successful and impactful," Gribble said.

On Monday, city council approved extending the pilot to Oct. 31.

"We believe that this is a great way for us to continue to support our downtown restaurants," Mayor Dan Mathieson said. "It helps get the average spend up on cheques, not only on the meals but also alcohol and it gives people another experience, another place to spend some time in Stratford."

Larry McCabe, owner of Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria, said the initiatives are helping.

"We're seeing a giant increase in our takeout on the weekends particularly," McCabe said. "Last week, we saw a 25 per cent jump."

The city and tourism alliance hope to keep the project going next summer, when the festival will hopefully be able to return.

"Everything we're doing now has a lot of lifetime value and feeds in very nicely to actually making it a more robust and stronger tourism economy," Gribble said.

Mathieson said he's willing to collaborate with other municipalities that may be considering a similar project. He said council will look at what worked well and what could be improved.