Danville street will remain open to traffic as part of COVID crackdown

A popular East Bay street is set to remain open to traffic this weekend after complaints about the way it was being used for outdoor dining. Lack of social distancing, people not wearing face masks and large gatherings prompted leaders in Danville to cancel this weekend’s street closure.

One block of Hartz Avenue between Prospect Avenue and Diablo road had been closed every weekend since June. The street was closed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only.

Danville leaders said they’re done with education and had to do something after businesses didn't comply with the health order, a fight broke out and cases spiked.

Curtis deCairon is the owner of Revel Kitchen & Bar and estimates a loss of a dozen outdoor tables on Hartz Avenue in downtown Danville, after town leaders decided to open the street back up.

“Initially a little bit of a disappointment,” said deCarion. “After we thought about it, we think it’s a better choice because over what's been happening over the past few weeks.”

Danville officials said they received complaints of repeated problems at a few establishments. The problems include businesses serving alcohol without food and live entertainment brought in creating a party scene attracting large groups of young out-of-towners.

“We’ve had complaints almost every day from folks observing of people weren’t wearing masks, people congregating, not social distancing,” said Danville Councilmember Newell Arnerich.

A tipping point was a fist fight among 75 people, mostly drunk. It happened two Saturdays ago at 1 a.m.

“That was sort of the peak of the disturbances we've been seeing just in this area,” said Arnerich.

“My managers told me we lost multiple tables, they just walked out on their bills because they didn't feel safe being here anymore,” said deCarion.

Danville officials suspect large gatherings may have caused a rise in Covid cases earlier this month. At one point, over a 14-day period, Danville’s new case count per 100,000 population was among the worst in Contra Costa County.

“We were concerned because in a community of this size you don't have to have a lot of new cases to begin to skew those numbers,” said Danville Town Manager Joe Calabrigo.

Danville’s town manager said rates have since dropped dramatically. The county’s new orange tier status now allows for indoor dining at 50 percent.

Businesses see that as a fighting chance to get through the winter especially after the street re-opening.

The owner of Revel feared all the bad behavior meant he’d be back to takeout only.

“I’d rather make less money right now, lose money rather than have us all close down and jeopardize the real future of our restaurants,” said deCarion.