San Jose shop owners hope for revival as Post Street reopens to cars
Nora Gonzalez, owner of Acapulco Jewelers, said closing Post Street in the daytime doesn't make sense as most bars and restaurants operate in the evenings. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

A stretch of Post Street in downtown San Jose closed for outdoor dining since 2020 will reopen to traffic by the end of this week, while other streets in the Al Fresco program will remain closed.

On Thursday early afternoon, the one-way street between First Street and Lightston Alley sat almost empty, as barrels used as tables—and the El Dorado 55 ship set up by the 55 South bar—had been cleared out.

The news has upset many, including Assemblyman and former San Jose Councilmember Ash Kalra, who said in a tweet that Post Street is “the most logical place to make car free forever.”

The Post Street closure was part of an outdoor dining and business program started in response to the COVID spread and months-long lockdown orders. San Jose first approved the Al Fresco program in May 2020 to allow businesses to take advantage of sidewalks, parking lots and closed public streets. Last month, the City Council approved an extension to the program through June, with plans to transform some options into permanent fixtures in the city.

Post Street will reopen to cars after some businesses said the closure for San Jose’s Al Fresco program decimated their livelihoods. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

The program has been a lifesaver for many businesses, especially restaurants and bars, city officials said. But for non-food businesses on Post Street, the closure has been a nightmare.

“It’s terrible for us,” Nora Gonzalez, owner of Acapulco Jewelers, told San José Spotlight, adding that shutting down the street in the daytime doesn’t make sense since restaurants and bars on the street operate mostly in the evening. “I can’t grow my business, and some customers stopped coming.”

A 16-year-old dry cleaning shop has also taken a hit since the street closed.

“It has made it hard for my customers to get here,” Angel Tran, owner of Angel’s Cleaners & Alterations, told San José Spotlight. “Many people don’t want to park two, three blocks away and carry their laundry here.”

Tran said she’s filed numerous complaints with the city, as the pandemic—and the street closure—threatens her livelihood.

“I’m glad the city helped the restaurants and bars here,” she said. “But what about us?”

Other streets remain closed

Under the Al Fresco program, San Jose has closed down three public streets, San Pedro and Post streets downtown and Coronado Avenue near Edenvale in South San Jose.

Blage Zelalich, the city’s acting deputy director of business development, said concerns from business owners like Tran and Gonzalez prompted the city to reopen Post Street to cars.

“Retail and walk-in service businesses tend to rely more heavily on vehicle traffic and on-street parking for their customers, and are impacted when the street is closed to vehicles,” Zelalich told San José Spotlight, adding restaurants and bars on the street can still use sidewalks to offer outdoor dining. “Allowing cars back on Post Street does not preclude an active, enjoyable, outdoor commercial vibe on that block.”

One block away, the outdoor dining program on San Pedro Street remains bustling.

“This program has been a huge help to us,” Maria Charron, a manager of the Farmers Union restaurant, told San José Spotlight. “With the new COVID variant, we’re starting to see more demand for it again.”

The Farmers Union restaurant on San Pedro Street has seen an increased demand for outdoor dining this week as COVID infections skyrocket. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

A coalition of restaurant owners on San Pedro is lobbying for the city to keep the street closed permanently, and the city is exploring the option, Zelalich said. Closing San Pedro Street would block access to the parking garage on that side.

“Our understanding is that the majority of businesses on San Pedro Street are in favor of the current configuration of the street, however, we know that there isn’t a 100% consensus,” she said.

In South San Jose, District 2 Councilmember Sergio Jimenez, who represents the area, said the Coronado Avenue outdoor business program continues to thrive. His office is working with a community marketplace to bring more night markets and events to the area this year.

“Not everyone frequents the downtown area,” Jimenez said. “This helps us bring some of the city’s vibrancy to people where they are.”

Jimenez is also working to keep the program running through a hybrid approach, with street barriers that the city can remove and install easily. He hopes to bring TVs and movie screens to the outdoor space during the World Cup season later this year.

Downtown residents Katie and Chris Williams said Post Street reopening to cars is a bummer for people frequenting the area.

“That was a good thing during this pandemic,” Katie said. “The city should have kept it closed.”

Chris said he understands the struggle non-restaurant businesses have faced.

“I think it makes sense for Post Street,” he said.

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

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