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San José Mayor, Councilmember Davis Call for San Jose Al Fresco: Allowing Local Businesses to Operate Outdoors

Ordinance has support from local business leaders, organizations, and the California Restaurant Association, as San Jose prepares to safely reopen economy

Post Date:05/08/2020

May 8, 2020

Media Contact:
Rachel Davis, Office of Mayor Sam Liccardo, 408.712.9149,

SAN JOSE, CA. - Today, Mayor Liccardo and Councilmember Dev Davis announced their proposal to help some San Jose businesses begin the reopening process. The proposed ordinance will provide local businesses—particularly restaurants— access to public space and private adjacent property for open-air operations, in anticipation of revisions to county health guidelines that will allow for the safe reopening of the economy. 

During a virtual press conference, the Mayor and Councilmember were joined by prominent business community leaders, Teresa Alvarado (SPUR), Scott Knies (San Jose Downtown Association), Matthew Mahood (Silicon Valley Organization), and Katie Hansen (California Restaurant Association). 

“Ensuring the well-being of San Joseans will require creative thinking to balance jumpstarting the economy with ensuring that we end the pandemic,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “The implementation of al fresco operations will allow critically endangered businesses to safely re-open by clearing roadblocks and allowing customers to return. We have to give our local businesses every tool we can to preserve their livelihoods, which will revitalize our economy, ensuring thousands of residents can return to work and keep food on the table.”

The ordinance would allow businesses to apply for the temporary use of streets, surface lots, public parking lots, public recreation space and more for outdoor dining, exercise classes and other outdoor business operations-- while complying with public health guidelines for social distancing.

“We need to be prepared to get people back to work quickly and safely as soon as we get the all-clear from the County Public Health Office,” said Councilmember Dev Davis. “What better way than to take advantage of our beautiful weather?”

If adopted, the city will look for federal reimbursements and other funding to offset the application costs and other administrative fees so struggling businesses can focus on what they do best. The city would also find ways to permit low-cost infrastructure (such as 3D barriers, potted plants, etc.) to be built in designated service areas, particularly for legal alcoholic beverage consumption outside of restaurants in accordance with state law.

The ordinance also directs city staff to work closely with business organizations, such as SPUR, to identify geographic locations in San Jose that private businesses could utilize for their outdoor operational use, including private parking lots, public parks, alleys, plazas, and streets. Such uses could include outdoor cafes, gyms, yoga studios, and retail.

“San Jose is better when we’re connected, and more spaced. Outdoor community connections are essential for our wellbeing, quality of life, and physical health during this pandemic,” said Teresa Alvarado, San Jose Director of SPUR. “As shelter-in-place orders are relaxed, we must consider how we emerge from this period safely and creatively support our local community.”

The City will also collaborate with local ethnic Chambers of Commerce, San Jose Downtown Association, the Silicon Valley Organization, Mayor’s Silicon Valley Recovery Roundtable, and local business districts to ensure smooth implementation.

“Much will be different in the months ahead as we begin to return to our communities for work and play,” said Scott Knies, Executive Director of the San Jose Downtown Association. “Utilizing city streets and public spaces in new ways will be necessary, especially for our hospitality businesses facing strict distancing protocols.”  

Public health orders will likely continue to significantly limit indoor space for patrons in the coming months. Reimagining the use of public space for outdoor seating and services is critical to enable sufficient social distancing for the safety of employees and the public. 

“As we look to reopen our economy, businesses are going to have to adopt new health and safety policies to adapt to the new normal,” said Matthew R. Mahood, President & CEO of The Silicon Valley Organization. “To address this challenge, we must quickly adopt innovative and creative ideas to get these businesses back open safely and to give them a chance to thrive. The policies being put forth today are a step in the right direction and would create new vibrant main streets in our neighborhoods.”

The National Restaurant Association estimates that more than 1 million restaurant employees in California have been laid off or furloughed since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in March. This represents at least 70 percent of the 1,467,000 employees that were working at California’s eating and drinking places in February.

“California’s restaurants are the cornerstone of every community and an economic engine that employs 1.4 million food service workers and generates more sales tax ($7 billion annually) than any other industry,” said Katie Hansen, Senior Legislative Director, The California Restaurant Association. “Due to the COVID-19 crisis, we are estimating close to 50% of restaurants have temporarily closed their doors and 1 million food service workers are temporarily unemployed. We need creative ideas like Mayor Sam Liccardo’s Al Fresco dining proposal to help reopen restaurants and get our restaurant family members back to work.

The Mayor and Councilmember’s memo will be voted on at the Rules and Open Government Committee meeting on Wednesday, May 13 before going to a full vote of the City Council.

You can read the full memo here.

You can watch the press conference here.



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