San Jose Eyes Extension To Al Fresco Program To Maintain Companies Open Outdoor – CBS San Francisco
By Carly Wipf / San Jose Spotlight
SAN JOSE (BCN) – San Jose executives are looking to safely open businesses to the outdoors with the expansion of San Jose’s Al Fresco program.
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The program has enabled many businesses such as gyms and cafes to exercise outdoors under COVID-19 health restrictions. However, a rule that allows companies to drive for free in city parking lots, streets and parks expires at the end of the month.
San Jose City Council will vote on Tuesday to potentially extend Al Fresco through September 30, but some are hoping the program will last longer – or even become permanent.
“We’d like a longer extension,” said Nate LeBlanc, business development manager for the San Jose Downtown Association. “We think this was a great program and we really appreciate that the city is flexible with it. It had a tangible benefit. “
He said SJDA was advocating an extension through December. Even as Santa Clara County moves to the less restrictive orange row this month, restaurants can still accommodate customers up to 50% in-house, making Al Fresco an integral part of recovering lost business.
At a recent city meeting, Rodney Baca, owner of The Shop by Chef Baca, described the program as a “great savior”. Local leaders made al fresco a top priority, and Mayor Sam Liccardo’s budget plan advocated additional funding to keep it going.
“This expansion is needed to keep our restaurants alive, especially as we step onto less restrictive levels and see warmer weather,” said Mayor’s spokeswoman Rachel Davis. “While some companies have received PPP loans, the continued activation of our business corridors is critical to maintaining the quality of life for our residents and the convenience of our businesses who are back to work. By continuing Al Fresco, our companies have a greater chance to recover. “
Councilor Dev Davis said she was optimistic that at some point the council would make a version of Al Fresco permanent.
“It’s a great program,” Davis told San Jose Spotlight. “I know companies, at least on Lincoln Avenue, really took advantage of the opportunity.”
Jennifer Echeverri, owner of local restaurant Habana Cuba, said she had a quick and positive experience applying for Al Fresco. Her only criticism is that she couldn’t put as many tables outside as shops with streets closed to traffic.
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“As owners, we haven’t had the opportunity to close our street,” said Echeverri. The program allowed her to add a few tables along a curb that was traditionally used for parking.
Echeverri, who struggled to stay afloat over the winter and received a DoorDash scholarship, said she has seen growth in business since Santa Clara County moved to the orange row. The sunshine also gives a glimmer of hope, she said. Business is booming as the weather warms up.
“We’re feeling a lot better,” she said. “Customers come in. So we’re not all stressed.”
A total of 131 companies have registered to operate outdoors in San Jose under the program, according to a memo from Nanci Klein, director of economic development.
A dozen companies were allowed to drive on roads that were temporarily closed to cars. Al Fresco has closed three streets, one in south San Jose and two in downtown.
35 companies received permits to use public sidewalks, a parklet, or both. One company no longer has a city parking lot, said Klein.
“The fact that we got it going this summer really helped some of these companies not only survive the pandemic but also have a real chance to maintain a sense of normalcy, retain employees and give people the opportunity to give to take advantage of our weather. the best weather in the world, ”said LeBlanc. “We should be out there enjoying it, especially now that it’s spring.”
The San Jose City Council meets at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Visit the San Jose YouTube page to watch them.
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