Should downtown Palo Alto streets remain closed now that state has reopened?

It’s a controversial topic on the Peninsula: Should downtown streets remain closed for outdoor dining now that the state has fully reopened?

Palo Alto city leaders have voted to keep some streets closed to traffic until September but not everyone agrees with the decision.

Some restaurants want the closures to be permanent. Others said they’ve lost out on business from foot traffic.

"I call this a little piece of heaven," said Nancy Coupal of Coupa Café.

The owner of Coupa Café’s slice of heaven is what Nancy Coupal calls an outdoor oasis.

"It’s a little piece of Europe, everywhere in Europe you have piazzas right," said Coupal.

Diners can eat and relax on the stretch of Ramona Avenue in one of Palo Alto’s historical districts. Coupal and other owners invested thousands of dollars for outdoor seating.

"The summer is here," said Coupal. "We have good weather. Don’t take this away from us to breathe again and recuperate a little bit."

Parts of Ramona Avenue, University and California Avenues have been closed to traffic since last year to help restaurants survive the pandemic.

The city was planning to open the streets in October. Then, the date was pushed up to July. After a late night vote and a lot of debate, the streets will remain closed until September 30. Next door to Coupa Cafe is the Pamela Walsh Gallery.

"My business has definitely gotten better because my neighbors around me have brought more business to the block," said Walsh.

"A lot of us have given up our retirement savings just to get through the pandemic and now it’s like we are going to reward the people on University Avenue but anyone on the side streets you are left to be on your own," said Robert Fischer, owner of Palo Alto Creamery.

Fischer owns two restaurants on side streets, Palo Alto Creamery and Reposado. He called the street closures unfair.

"They can’t get to the retailers," said Fischer. "They have to zigzag through the streets. What’s going to happen when all the businesses come back and people are in offices? Where’s all that traffic going to go? It’s going to all end up on the residential streets."

"In our little survey, half the people said it’s great, half the people said it’s terrible," said Palo Alto City Councilman Greg Tanaka.

Tanaka said the city plans to gather sales data from restaurants and retailers and study the closures during non-COVID restrictions.

With businesses barely hanging on and government loans running out, the last thing anyone wants to see is more for lease signs.

"If we don't have a vibrant downtown, then we have a lot of closures," said Tanaka.

City leaders will discuss the street closures again in September. Some restaurant owners said if it becomes permanent, it could damage the relationships between owners on University Avenue and the owners on side streets.

 Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or