BARRIE, ONT. -- For the first time this summer, Donaleighs Irish Pub set out chairs on its front patio Friday.

It opened because more of Dunlop St has been cleared with construction between Owen St and Clapperton St wrapped up.

While the reopening of the section was a few days behind, the entire Dunlop project is well ahead of schedule.

"When COVID hit, our contractor on the Dunlop Street project approached the city and said we can probably get this done faster, it's a good time to do it, because at that time, many of the businesses were closed," explains Barrie mayor Jeff Lehman.

Businesses are happy to get the extra foot traffic.

"It's a lot more welcoming without all of the debris and everything that the construction was causing," says Riley Crockford, a server at Kenzington Burger Bar.

"We've been waiting for this and obviously there's been a lot of problems in 2020, a lot of setbacks, and this is one step closer to getting back to normality," says Ryan Elson, Assistant General Manager at Donaleighs.

"The businesses are experiencing an increase in sales," says Kelly McKenna, Executive Director of the Downtown Barrie BIA. "A lot of them are running about 30% of what they did last year, but 30% is better than zero, where they were a couple of months ago.

The next section of Dunlop, up to Mary St, should reopen in the coming weeks. The entire project is expected to finish in the fall.