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By Tim Hunt

Good idea to temporarily close Main Street to expand businesses

Uploaded: May 21, 2020

Pleasanton Chamber CEO Steve Van Dorn floated an interesting idea this week—temporarily closing Main Street to allow stores and restaurants to expand sidewalk businesses to the street.
Judging by the comments on the Weekly website, the idea is popular and may gain traction. It’s the type of jump start that the restaurant industry, in particular, can use. Restaurants have been limited to delivery and takeout since Gavin Newsom issued the shelter-in-place order March 17.
Given that indoor dining may still be in the future and capacity will be significantly limited, the outdoor option would expand seating while maintaining the social distancing.
Gov. Newsom last week released a series of requirements for restaurants that included sanitized or disposable menus (or digital), no preset tables, no common condiments (salt and pepper shakers, etc.), people pack their own to-go containers and everyone is wearing a mask. Temperature checks for staff and consistent and routine sanitizing as well as appropriate distancing between tables.
A report in the San Francisco Business Times focused on impacts on restaurants contained several recommendations, but figuring out how to balance capacity vs. rent with the restauranteur and the landlord will be a key issue.
Another key question is when and how willing people will be to out and mix in public. The virus has ravaged nursing homes and health authorities are almost uniform with the recommendation (in contrast to many disagreements on other points) that people aged 65 and older and particularly those with underlying conditions should stay home as much as possible.
I experienced first-hand how different it will be last week when a few of us—all church members—gathered to visit a dear friend in the Creekview Assisted Living facility. We talked to her on the phone and through an open window while wearing masks and observing the appropriate distancing.
It was striking for me to stand next to a dear friend, who I routinely hug at church and have for decades, and not touch her. The same with others I’d hug or exchange warm handshakes. As one in the higher risk group, I’m living in faith not fear, but paying attention to where I go and with who.
The restaurant closings locally started earlier this month with a broken business model. Such is the case for Sweet Tomatoes which will be closed permanently in Hacienda Business Park. Garden Fresh Restaurants, based in San Diego, announced it was closing all 97 of its restaurants because the self-serve salad and soup bar will not be allowed under new requirements from the Food and Drug Administration. That’s likely the case for any restaurant using a buffet at the center of its business model.
The same will be true for many hotels that offer self-serve breakfast buffets.
One alternative I read about in another report indicated that the buffet may continue behind glass with the client saying what they want and how much and a staff member plating the food and then serving it.