San Jose's Dine Downtown kicks off, extended as lifeline for struggling restaurants

For restaurants in San Jose, the annual Dine Downtown event is taking on extra significance. It's a way to bring back customers and lure in new ones at a time when businesses are fighting for survival.

For months, restaurants have been struggling: first with the pandemic, then protests, and finally with smoky air that's kept customers away.

The owner of Mezcal says it's been one blow after the next.

"It's kind of like you get in a car accident, and when you try to recover, you get hit by a bike. And when you get to the hospital you hit by a car again. So that's exactly the way it's been for a lot of downtown businesses, not just me," says Adolfo Gomez, owner of Mezcal Restaurant.

The San Jose Downtown Association wants to help.

Their annual Dine Downtown event, this year, is more like a lifeline.

They've extended it to six weeks. And there's a slew of specials and prix fixe meals to lure diners out.

"Downtown is a little bit of a shadow of what it normally is. We've got high rises and fabulous industry down here that are now empty because workers are working from home," says Autumn Young of the San Jose Downtown Association.

This has been especially hard for Paper Moon Cafe, which just opened in June.  They had a special mural painted out front, explains owner Jerry Wang, "that says tough times, tougher people. To us that's the mantra that we live by."

They normally serve coffee and boba tea but are using the event to test a tasting menu.

"This is actually only for now, the Dine Downtown event. However we're definitely looking forward to introducing more food options," says Wang.

At Mezcal, their Dine Downtown offering is three courses for $30-dollars.

And while they say dining in has always been their bread and butter, they're working on beefing up their take out and delivery options.

"We're changing the concept because to go and the order online is going to stay forever," says Gomez.

So they're adapting, in order to survive.

But they say, unless customers come back, many simply won't make it.

"The way things are going, at least half of the businesses you used to know, they're going to be gone by the end of the year," says Gomez.

There are about 20 restaurants participating so far but more are being added each day. The event runs until November 15.

For more on Dine Downtown: