San Jose Lawmakers Propose ‘Al Fresco’ Dining Initiative to Aid Small Business Recovery

San Jose has started paving the way for restaurants to safely reopen with expanded outdoor dining once the shelter-in-place order eases up.

Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilwoman Dev Davis teamed up Friday to announce their  “Al Fresco San Jose” initiative, which would allow restaurants and other local businesses to utilize sidewalks, paseos, parking and other outdoor space to accommodate patrons.

“San Jose Al Fresco simply put is a way to utilize this beautiful sunshine that we experience nearly every day here in San Jose,” Liccardo said at a virtual news conference. “[We need] to be able to help many of our struggling small businesses get back open to help more of our residents get a paycheck to help them put food on their table.”

Restaurants across the state have experienced deep financial cuts as owners temporarily close up shop or operate solely through take-out orders. San Jose Downtown Association Executive Director Scott Knies said that in the city’s core, only 6 percent of the 1,628 businesses are open and another 9 percent are only partially open.

“An effort like Al Fresco San Jose is a step in the right direction because we know that it’s going to be different,” he said. “We know that we’re going to have spacing requirements and we’re going to have less tables inside. So if we have less tables inside and we want these businesses to survive, we’re going to have to go outside.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to announce guidelines Tuesday to help restaurants re-open safely. The California Restaurant Association has proposed requirements such as temperature checks for employees, hand washing schedules and face masks.

While Santa Clara County public health officials haven’t said when dine-in restaurants will be allowed to operate again, Liccardo says he want to make sure the city has “the rules in place” when it’s time to resume business as usual.

To soften the financial blow on small businesses, city officials are exploring alternative funding sources to help offset the cost of applications. Quick-build infrastructure, such as 3-D barriers and potted plants, are also being considered to help restaurants stay in compliance with rules set out by Alcohol Beverage Control.

San Jose plans to collaborate with local organizations, like the urban planning nonprofit SPUR, to help identify parking lots, alleys, plazas and streets that could be used.

“San Jose Al Fresco will remove the need for those of us who’ve been cooped up in our homes for nearly 2 months to rush out to crowded parks and beaches on weekends to get outside,” SPUR San Jose Director Teresa Alvarado said. “This program will also help to equalize the opportunity to be safely outside for disadvantaged communities that lack parks or other nearby open space.”

Liccardo and Davis both expressed their hope that the initiative would help pave the way for permanent uses of the outdoor space.

“We’ve already started to do that in little park-lets, taking over some parking spaces in different areas of the city,” she said. “The way that I see that this is a good way to test it out in a lot of other areas and see where it works and where it can be permanent. We do have to take advantage of our 300 days of sunshine.”

“I think what this crisis affords us is the opportunity to move faster,” Liccardo added. “Recognize that there is a really urgent need to help folks get back to work and perhaps that can spur more rapid movement in this direction.”

The proposal will be heard at 2pm Wednesday during the City Council’s next Rules and Open Government Committee session.

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase.

15 Comments

  1. Moving fast:

    “Just do it!”

    Not moving fast:

    ““I think what this crisis affords us is the opportunity to move faster,” Liccardo added. “Recognize that there is a really urgent need to help folks get back to work and perhaps that can spur more rapid movement in this direction.”

    “The proposal will be heard at 2pm Wednesday during the City Council’s next Rules and Open Government Committee session.”

    • The pushback in California to the grossly unconstitutional edicts will have to start in counties where snowflakes are in the minority. The snowflake generations of coddled kids with rooms full of participation trophies will simply wait for the 2 grand per month checks to arrive.
      Memorial Day would be a good day to start the freedom uprising against the politicians and health department officers choking us with their orders which are based upon warnings from “experts” about things that have never materialized.

      • My SIP ended on May 4, and many other people have also ended SIP. The original intent was noble to create working space for healthcare professionals, but we were completely misled by both the County and the State about SIP being necessary to only flatten the curve. We are now several weeks beyond that flattened curve, and now small business owners have seen their investments completely destroyed, while their rents and losses have continued to accrue.

        This is without comparison the single most self-inflicted economic implosion this State has ever seen, all of which is on GovGav and the various Bay Area Health officials.

        • Notice the pattern all democratic governors have no intention of opening SCC and others in the state.
          They want the economy to look bad for the elections.
          It’s time to open our businesses in California. Put pressure on the corrupt Newsom!

      • Unfortunately I think you are still outvoted in California as a whole. Polls seem to indicate that most favor a shutdown.

  2. If you can’t run your restaurant SOLELY as a pick up operation then you are most likely done. Sounds like the people (e.g. the Mayor) that came up with this bright idea never ran a business. You are going to increase the distances between tables. Right. You have rent to pay and the reason you have tables close to each other is DUH to have sufficient number of customers to pay the rent.

    I never believe in telling people how to run their business. If you are a restaurant then you might have to do what Sweet Tomatoes just did and shut it down PERMANENTLY. That’s unfortunate to be sure but with over 6 weeks of shutdown already and it looks like the shutdown will be extended at the end of May until the end of June then you probably will never be able to get caught up on your bills.

    • According to the memo from County Executive Jeffrey Smith, presented at the May 5 BOS meeting, due to the various conditions and milestones put forth by the Bay Area health officials and GovGav, we can expect the SIP to be extended to mid July, again according to that memo.

      It is not stated explicitly, but it is mentioned by extension, that by requesting the BOS to approve the “PLAN” and the memo, and that the last part of the plan, to train tracers, will not be completed until mid July. This intentional misleading of the public by the County Executive Jeffrey Smith, Health official Sara Cody and the entire BOS of Cindy Chavez, Mike Wasserman, Dave Cortese, Susan Ellenberg and Joe Simitian is outrageous, and is nothing less than a taking of private businesses by a governmental agency without compensation.

      • To encourage social distancing, I am encouraging businesses to leave the state. Tesla has made the first announcement so you can expect even more in the next couple of weeks.

        I am NOT a lawyer so definitely don’t consider this as legal advice. You have a small business unable to pay the rent. Shut the business down NOW and hand the landlord the keys. You probably have signed a personal guarantee to pay the rent but under the circumstances you might have a decent legal defense in being denied use of the property.

        Far better to do that then to just sit around in a vacant building. Your customers have been gone for six weeks and probably will be hard to get back.

  3. If you have a small business then you might do your employees a favor and go out of business. While I don’t encourage anyone to shut a business, if you were planning on shutting your business down anyhow then maybe your ex employees can get retraining from EDD. I definitely don’t know that for sure but your ex employees are better off knowing that your business isn’t going to come back then waiting. Don’t know for sure about the unemployment benefits so don’t take my advice as definitive.

    It’s hard to say for sure what is going to happen. My gut feeling is that we are going to have another 30 day shutdown which takes us to July 1. These jokers in the government have NEVER run ANY TYPE of business so they are CLUELESS about keeping one going.

  4. Liccardo wants to have rules in place when it is time to resume business as usual. Oxymoron! If you put all those new rules in place you can’t possibly have business as usual.

    Move dinners out doors (Al Fresco). Don’t they know the “Wuhan Red Death” is spread by Corona Bats spitting at you when they get caught in your hair.

    • A restaurant may have to get legal advice and use the force majeure clause in your lease. Realistically, I don’t see how you can have a sit down dining restaurant anytime in the near future and it is difficult to maintain paying rent on a business not generating an income.

  5. > San Jose Lawmakers Propose ‘Al Fresco’ Dining Initiative to Aid Small Business Recovery

    I suspect that the “Al Fresco” idea may be a non-starter, thanks to the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Apparently, there is a wrangle in progress over the NEXT “stimulus” event. The Nancy Pelosi party wants — guess what — umpteen gazillion dollars to shower on people who need to be discouraged from working. The Productive People Party wants Congress to pass legislation shielding businesses from frivolous lawsuits tied to coronavirus:

    “Your Honor: My client was infected with coronavirus while eating at an al fresco restaurant in San Jose. The greedy owner was trying to make a profit selling me an overpriced taco and was negligent and uncaring in failing to keep me from being infected by the dangerous and deadly coronavirus. The greedy owner should have known better. I’M A VICTIM. ”

    Multiply by 500 times the number of trial lawyers in Amerca.

    Al Fresco dining is a non-starter. Sit down dining is a non-starter in the era of coronavirus.

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