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Pandemic-era outdoor dining sticking around in San Jose

Pandemic-era outdoor dining sticking around in San Jose
Photo Credit: sanjoseca.gov
By Wesley Severson - Published on December 09, 2021.

It looks like pandemic-era outdoor dining arrangements will be staying in place across the city of San Jose for a while. With cases and concerns over coronavirus variants still running high, the San Jose City Council has officially extended the outdoor dining program, called San Jose 'Al Fresco,' and in some areas, it could eventually become permanent. According to a city press release, “the extension allows the continued closure of city streets, such as San Pedro Square, for use by diners and shoppers through June 30, 2022.” Businesses that utilize the program on their own private properties will be allowed to continue until December of next year.

“San Jose ‘Al Fresco’ was a critical lifeline for many of our small businesses during the pandemic. San José restaurateurs and merchants are the backbones of our community and we must continue to help them on the road to economic recovery–while maintaining safe spaces for residents to socialize outdoors,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in the release. 

City documents show that 136 businesses are registered with the Al Fresco program. 35 of them use their parking lots to serve customers and 12 used closed roads such as Post Street in downtown or Coronado Avenue in the Edenvale neighborhood. The city says 17 permits were issued for Al Fresco business operations in parks. The program was approved during the height of the pandemic in the middle of last year and was originally proposed as just a temporary solution by Mayor Liccardo and Councilmember Dev Davis to help business owners survive. Once it was up and running it quickly spread to businesses beyond restaurants like salons, casinos, and gyms.

Blage Zelalich, San Jose’s acting deputy director of business development told San Jose Spotlight that “discussions with business owners and stakeholders about whether to keep certain streets closed are ongoing.” Councilmember Pam Foley is also discussing ways to make some of the parklet dining areas permanent. “It seems to me, there are particular areas that just seem natural to keep the street closed,” Foley told San Jose Spotlight. 

To help businesses transition into more permanent outdoor parklets, the city says it is working with the Knight Foundation on a grant agreement for $200,000. The goal is to come up with a template design for parklets that would save time, money, and make the permitting process easier on business owners. Businesses looking for new Al Fresco parklets can contact the economic development staff at [email protected]