SAN JOSE, California (KRON) – The San Jose City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to extend a program that allows businesses to work safely outdoors.
Al Fresco’s outdoor dining program, which will now run through the end of the year, has allowed many companies to continue working outdoors in order to comply with state and county COVID-19 restrictions.
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“We know there is much more to it and we want it to continue,” said Sam Liccardo, Mayor of San Jose.
“And I think we should be realistic about the reality of this pandemic, although we all hope that everyone will be vaccinated quickly and that we will do the right things,” Liccardo added.
“I think the virus will be with us for quite a while, for a year or two, in quite a sizeable way.”
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For Jennifer Echeverri, owner of Habana Cuba at the SoFA market in downtown San Jose, the al-fresco program last year has helped her restaurant stay afloat.
“Al Fresco allows us to have more seating as you can currently only sit every 6 feet so we lost a lot of dining space,” said Echeverri.
“We took over some parking spaces with the Al Fresco. We can add 5 or 6 more tables that we would not have had without that.”
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Currently, Santa Clara County is in the less restrictive orange category, so restaurants can accommodate customers indoors but are only 50% busy.
Echeverri tells KRON4 News that she hopes the program will last long as the county and city slowly reopen.
“We need al fresco,” said Echeverri.
“San Jose has perfect weather. So we need people who come out to feel safe. The longer we can have these outdoor dining options, the better for us all in the long run.”
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The SoFA market, and the city as a whole, saw a surge in business when the county moved to the orange plains last week.
As more residents are vaccinated, more and more people are taking the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors after following instructions to stay home for more than a year.
“SoFa is in a unique position as we already had backdoor patio dining as well as parklet dining on the doorstep. It’s always good to have extra outside seating. It really helps us, people definitely use it, “said David Ma. SoFA Market General Manager.
“The mood has shifted upwards, it’s better if pedestrian traffic increases due to the weather in general,” added Ma.
“I think the weather combined with the fact that people are being vaccinated. I think morale has been a little better lately and not just in the market but in the entire neighborhood. So that’s positive that we look forward to seeing. “
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If the Al Fresco program continues, more than 130 companies that have signed up for the program and do not have the funds or capacity to operate for free in parking lots, streets and outdoor parks.
The program also allows gyms and cafes to exercise outdoors.
“For some companies that have nice seating areas and have had supportive clients, they have done well, no one comes close to their pre-pandemic numbers, but there are rays of hope amid it all,” said Nate LeBlanc, business development manager for the San Jose Downtown Association .
According to LeBlanc, the application process for the Al Fresco program was apparently easy to apply for. He also hopes the city can maintain the program on a permanent basis.
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“I would hope that we can continue the post-pandemic as a role model for things that have so much common sense,” said LeBlanc.
“We have the best weather in the world. We did not make full use of our outdoor areas before the pandemic. I hope that it will continue to do so in the future.”
The Al Fresco program will be extended until December 31st.