As the world begins to explore the possibility of reopening its doors, San Jose officials are brainstorming ways to safely get the local economy up and running again. One method to maintain social distancing would be to allow more businesses to utilize sidewalks, parking lots, and streets. Especially in the case of restaurants, this could be a partial solution for limiting the number of patrons indoors.

This new proposal dubbed  “Al Fresco San Jose”, is an initiative lead by San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilwoman Dev Davis. In a memo penned by Liccardo and Davis, the pair propose allowing businesses, such as restaurants, bars, yoga studios and gyms, to apply for temporary use of streets, public parking spaces and recreation areas to serve their customers, as permitted under the county’s public health directive.

“We recognize that in a city with 300 days of sunshine a year, we have a unique opportunity to offer a plan for greater resilience to the coronavirus challenge that is facing every single small business owner in this city and throughout the country right now,” Liccardo said during a news conference on Friday.

The Silicon Valley restaurant industry has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, leaving many restaurants devastated and thousands of industry workers unemployed. The current expectation is that when restaurants are permitted to open they will only hold 25-50% of their previous interior capacity. Creating dining space “al fresco” could be part of the answer.

Part of implementing the useable outdoor space will include applications and the addition of barriers. City officials are working to mitigate some of these obstacles by providing quick build infrastructure and waiving permit fees.

Adding outdoor dining and retail space to downtown San Jose is part of adapting to a new normal, but this might be one adaptation that we like enough to make permanent.

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