While Bay Area residents are unlikely to sit down for dinner with family and friends at a restaurant or bar in the near future, the limited dining on outdoor patios and sidewalk cafes may not be too far away.
Indeed, eating outdoors could very well become the new norm.
As part of a new initiative proposed by San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilor Dev Davis, businesses – restaurants in particular – could have the ability to take over parking lots, block portions of streets and areas of a public park for open-air services when the The region begins to reopen in the coming months.
“We recognize that in a city with 300 days of sunshine a year, we have a unique opportunity to propose a plan for greater resilience to the coronavirus challenge that every single small business owner in this city and across the country is currently facing. ” Liccardo said during a press conference on Friday.
The new proposal – called Al Fresco San Jose – was announced less than a week after some states like South Carolina allow outdoor restaurants to reopen, and as other cities across the country are working on similar regulations to allow more outdoor services to be enjoyed allow when their orders that stay at home are canceled.
Earlier this week, San Mateo Mayor Joe Goethals announced a new task force that will investigate the potential of blocking some downtown streets for restaurant seating. On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to announce new guidelines for eating in California.
The various efforts are all linked by a unique goal: to get Americans back to work and begin rebuilding the nation’s ruined economy.
The National Restaurant Association estimates that at least 70% of California grocery and bar employees have been laid off or on leave since the order to contain the spread of COVID-19 was issued in mid-March.
According to Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association, of the 1,600+ companies that operate in downtown San Jose, only about 15% are still operating.
“So it is not surprising that we are in a lot of pain in the small business world right now, and such efforts are a step in the right direction,” Knies said during the press conference. “We know it will be different – we will have spacing requirements and fewer tables inside.”
“… Necessity is sometimes the mother of invention, so this is a real opportunity for us,” he added.
In a memo authored by Liccardo and Davis, the two propose to allow businesses such as restaurants, bars, yoga studios, and gyms to request temporary use of streets, public parking lots, and recreational areas to serve their customers, like this after the Regulations permitted by the county’s public health policy.
Their proposed plan would also waive outdoor cafe permits and fees to allow restaurants and other businesses that comply with county ordinance to operate outside of seating and service for customers.
The proposal instructs city officials to work with local business leaders to identify the ideal locations, including public parks, alleys, squares and streets where outdoor business could take place.
City officials and local business leaders hope that the proposed outdoor dining and trading areas could become part of the city even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
“We have already started doing this in small parklets – by taking over some parking lots in different areas of the city,” said Davis. “The way I see it, it’s a great way to test it out in many other areas and see where it could be permanent.”
With the use of most of the city’s parks as such restricted, Liccardo said that any open-air dining in those areas would most likely “require more formal arrangements that would ensure that there was really strong community support before we did allow this continue after an emergency. “
But in other places, like sidewalks and parking lots, the mayor said, “If we think it works, I don’t see why we wouldn’t make it permanent.”
Expanding the outdoor dining options is sure to present city guides and business owners alike with unique challenges, such as: B. Permission to consume alcoholic beverages outside of a restaurant or bar. To that end, city officials worked with state officials, the California Department of Alcohol Control, and local law enforcement agencies to find solutions.