BARRIE, ONT. -- As more businesses across Ontario begin to reopen after months of lockdown, many in Barrie's downtown are celebrating the return of Open Air Dunlop.

The program, which was first launched last year by the Barrie BIA, was initially scheduled to start on June 19. However, with the province entering step one of its Roadmap to Reopen ahead of schedule, city council and the BIA decided to launch the program this weekend.

"It's super important to get people downtown supporting our local businesses, they just reopened, and they can't wait to see everyone," says Kristen Eatch, the project manager for the BIA.

As a result, Dunlop Street is closed between Mulcaster and the Five Points Intersection on Saturdays.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.The sun was shining, and the weather was warm Saturday as Open Air Dunlop began a week ahead of schedule.

With Dunlop St. closed to vehicle traffic between Mulcaster St. and the Five Points Intersection, the initiative encourages people to shop at local businesses and enjoy a meal on restaurant patios that have been closed for months.

"It's super important to get people downtown supporting our local businesses. They just reopened, and they can't wait to see everyone," said Kristen Eatch, Downtown Barrie Business Association Project Manager.

The program, which was first launched last year by the Barrie BIA to successful results, was initially scheduled to start on June 19. However, with the province entering step one of its Roadmap to Reopen ahead of schedule, city council and the BIA decided to launch the program this weekend.

Throughout the day, crowds flooded the street, and the lineups started early. It didn't take long before patios were packed.

"It's been hard on everybody, obviously. Everyone has been locked in their homes for the last four months, and just seeing people out, it's giving everyone a new lease on life," says Colin Johnson, General Manager of North Country restaurant.

Business owners downtown welcomed the return to a bit of normalcy, eager to open their doors after months of being shuttered.

"After such a long time closed, it's just such a relief to be able to open and have my staff with me and try to get back to a little bit of normal," said Tracey Baker, owner of ZuZu Fashion Boutique.

Open Air Dunlop will run every Saturday through the end of summer.

With files from Katelyn Wilson.