San Jose for casinos and dry cleaners to open outdoors

First there was al fresco dining, then al fresco haircuts, and now it soon came to San Jose – al fresco gambling.

Right. San Jose will be the first city in the Bay Area where casinos can shuffle their cards outside.

In a decision early Wednesday morning, the San Jose City Council agreed to allow casinos to expand their operations to their private parking lots and approved additional retail and personal services businesses like art studios and dry cleaners to move onto and into public sidewalks and parklets . The city’s two card rooms – Bay 101 and Casino Matrix – must be approved in writing by city administrators before they can again greet customers at their outdoor card tables.

The move comes as some companies have now been shut down for more than six months following the COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged many businesses, sparked layoffs, bankruptcies and more.

Councilor Maya Esparza was the only council member to vote against the operation of the outdoor card rooms, citing health and public safety concerns.

Prior to the pandemic, Bay 101 and Casino Matrix were set to generate $ 18.9 million in tax revenue for the city. According to a memo from Councilor Raul Peralez, a proponent of the casino’s expansions, the forced closure has weighed $ 13.5 million on that tax base.

Given the current economic crisis and the significant budgetary constraints forecast for the city in the coming years, Peralez said the city “should leave no stone unturned when it comes to creating much-needed taxpayers’ money for our community”.

“We know we are planning for them to generate significant revenue … and the more months they are out of service, the less we can generate,” Peralez said during the meeting.

The move to allow casinos to open tables outside comes just two months before an election, before voters increase the number of card tables allowed in the city and raise taxes on card rooms from 15% to 16.5%.

This week’s council decision marks the latest change to San José Al Fresco, a plan put in place in early May by Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilor Dev Davis to help businesses suffering the economic repercussions of forced closings and reduced operations suffer from the pandemic.

Here is some more general information about the plan and the status of the program four months after it was launched.

What types of companies are allowed to move outside?

  • Restaurants
  • General retail
  • Gyms and fitness studios
  • Educational services and training
  • Personal services such as nail and hair salons
  • Chemical cleaning
  • Art studios

Where are companies allowed to set up outdoors after approval?

  • Private parking
  • Public sidewalks
  • Parking on the street
  • Public roads that the city has closed to vehicle and bicycle traffic
  • City parking
  • Public parks and squares

However, not all company types are allowed to work in all of these settings. For example, casinos will be limited to their private parking spaces.

When can companies take advantage of the city’s loose rules to operate outdoors?

The city’s rules currently expire on December 31st, or when the city is no longer in a local state of emergency, whichever comes first.

What steps must be taken before a business can operate outdoors?

Any company that wants to move their business outside must fill out forms for the Santa Clara County Social Distancing Protocol and submit them to the county.

Once that’s done, businesses need to register with the city or apply for Al Fresco. Applying is free and in many cases – such as in private parking lots and sidewalks – businesses can use the space once registration is complete. For other locations such as public car parks and parking lots, the city must review the application and approve the move before it can take place.

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