South Bay and Peninsula cities closing streets for more outdoor dining

Some South Bay and Peninsula cities are closing streets to make space for outdoor dining.
With a mask on his face and chairs in his hands, Palo Alto restauranteur Michael Oliverio is setting up for the next stage of COVID-19 recovery.
“It’s like a dream come true for us. They close up the street for us, and it’s a new start for us,” he said.
On Thursday the City of Palo Alto shut down California Avenue to vehicular traffic.
“It wasn’t a rushed decision. But it was done in an expeditious manner so people could take advantage,” said Giselle Roohparvar, a City of Palo Alto planning commissioner.
The move allows restaurant owners to offer outdoor dining, since county coronavirus restrictions limit the number of patrons inside.
“My smile, I can’t stop smiling. I’ve very excited and I was able to get a lot of my employees back. And I can’t wait to get them all back together,” said Oliverio.
The City of Sunnyvale took a similar step Monday, closing Historic Murphy Avenue. Officials say the $187 permit fee for outdoor dining is waived, as an enticement for the city’s 350 restaurants.
“It’s been phenomenal. The restaurants have been very proactive and happy to expand to Murphy Avenue from the sidewalk to the street,” said Connie Verceles, the economic development head for the city. Added Mike Whatley, a vice president with the National Restaurant Association, “We’re seeing this trend everywhere. We’re seeing it in the northeast, the Atlantic seaboard, the south, and now the west coast.”
Experts say allowing restaurants to use streets and in some areas, parking lots, for food service, feeds their individual economic needs and the over-all Bay Area economy.
“As a step to getting the country reopened, it’s a good step,” said Dr. Robert Chapman Wood, a strategic management professor at San Jose State University.
It could also be the perfect step at the right time, just as Summer is startingand temperatures are warming. Officials say Murphy Avenue has been packed since dining expanded into the street.
“It was wonderful. Totally unexpected surprise. I had no idea anything was going to be open,” said restaurant patron Collin Peters. Added customer Deanna LaBarbera, “It’s a good thing. Less cars. It’s a good thing.”
Michael Oliverio hopes the expansion allows him to rehire all the workers the Covid shutdown forced him to layoff.
“I just know this is going to be a new beginning for all of us,” he said.
There are hopes this small thing will lead to others, on the road to a full recovery.