SoFA district leading downtown San Jose recovery after COVID

A good crowd was in attendance this past weekend to open Good Spot, a new dining lounge on South First Street in downtown San Jose. And while it’s impressive enough that the owner team Thoi Trinh, Ivy Li, and Sammy Sok stuck to the project and opened it during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s mind-boggling that Good Spot is the third new store to open last year became Block, followed by coffee house Nirvana Soul and Petiscos, an offshoot of the Adega restaurant.

Expect even more activity in the culture-steeped South First Area (SoFA) when spring turns into summer. A demonstration garden and a courtyard stand from Veggielution are expected to open in the coming weeks in the SoFA Pocket Park, which already houses a popular dog park that opened in February. There are plans to build a new gamer lounge in the cave where Forager Eatery is last located. SoFA Music Festival broadcasts free shows every Sunday in May, performed live or recorded at SoFA venues.

A lion dancer performs at the Good Spot opening in downtown San Jose on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sal Pizarro / Bay Area News Group)

For Scott Knies, Executive Director of the San Jose Downtown Association, the district is the launch pad for the post-pandemic revival in downtown San Jose. He points to planned residential projects in the vicinity such as the Garden Gate Tower and the Gateway Tower as positive signs and more immediate good omens. The monthly art walk on the first southern Fridays should be in full bloom again by summer. The San Jose Contemporary Art Institute is open by appointment, the San Jose Quilts and Textiles Museum is expected to reopen in the coming weeks, and the City Lights and San Jose Stage live theater should return this fall. People are also finding their way back to Original Joe’s, and the cocktail crowd gathers on Haberdasher’s Parklet terrace on the weekends, and the midday business in the SoFA Market Food Hall is starting to pick up.

“There have been ups and downs, but we’re not here to talk about the lows. This is a celebration, ”said Knies at the opening of Good Spot on Saturday. “The tenacity of small businesses is exemplified in this project today, but it is also the way we will recover from this pandemic.”

Owners, elected officials and business leaders cut the ribbon at the Good Spot in downtown San Jose on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sal Pizarro / Bay Area News Group)

Even the Downtown Association’s popular Friday farmers’ market is moving to South First, between San Salvador and William streets, after 21 years in San Pedro Square this week. The move was challenged by restaurants that had expanded the outdoor dining area on San Pedro Street – the setting up and dismantling of the stalls caused a major space crisis. Six potential locations were considered, but SoFA won, due in part to its potential to activate businesses in the area and reach residents in the nearby Sparq, Pierce and 360 residential buildings.

Trinh, the owner of Good Spot, has an extensive background with restaurants on Santana Row, including Sino and Straits, and he also saw the potential to bring a younger, stylish crowd downtown with an appealing selection of cocktails and small plates . Chef Timothy Luym combined his experience with food trucks and fine dining in San Francisco to create a menu of upscale, ethnic street food like Adobo Wing Lollipops and Pork Belly Katsu Rolls. “We want this to be a place where people feel like they can come in for a drink and a bite,” said Trinh.

Apparently they do. Good Spot sold its interior to a company on Friday night and it took an hour to sit outside on the parklet terrace.

Raul Peralez, whose neighborhood includes downtown San Jose, lamented the fact that most of SoFA’s restaurants and cultural venues were closed during most of the pandemic while he lived a block away, but said he was excited to see the area live again. “It was a ghost town downtown here and it affected all of us,” he said. “This will only really add to this resurgence, not just in the SoFA district, but in the entire downtown area.”

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