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Bay Area Wet Weather Gives Struggling Restaurants Another Challenge Amid Pandemic

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- After a very long stretch of warm and dry weather, South Bay restaurant owners must now get their outdoor dining areas ready for the cold and wet.

"Operations change a little bit. We have to call someone in early now to wipe down the tables, because of the rain, we have some puddles here," said Randy Musterer, who owns two Sushi Confidential restaurants in San Jose and Campbell.

The change in the weather already seemed to cut down on foot traffic on San Pedro Street.

But because of COVID, many diners still want to eat outside. Restaurants that can afford to are now paying extra for full tent enclosures and heaters.

"We're spending a lot more on propane. We're already doing our propane runs because a lot of people still enjoy being outside, but they need heaters for that," Musterer said.

The cooler weather signals the potential end of the popular Al Fresco program that is scheduled to run out this winter.

San Pedro Street was closed to car traffic at the beginning of the pandemic to allow outdoor street dining for COVID safety and a business boost for restaurants. Diners like it, too.

"The outdoor seating is amazing. You're not just enclosed in one spot," said Kevin Gudino, who works nearby.

But the program is scheduled to end on December 31. Restaurant owners are now asking the city to make the closure permanent, or at least have the closure extended.

"It's been a win-win and that's why we're looking at keeping it open for everybody," said Raul Peralez, the San Jose city councilmember for the downtown area.

Two big problems remain: the city is losing street parking revenue and drivers can't use one of two entrances to a city-owned parking garage by having San Pedro closed.

The city says that could be more of a problem later.

"As we restart society, as more people come to downtown, we want to make sure that we don't cause a traffic backup as people try to get into that garage," said Colin Heyne with the San Jose Transportation Department.

Heyne said San Jose parking revenues are down by about 13 million dollars since the pandemic began.



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