SAN JOSE (KPIX) – In an effort to give struggling restaurants a much-needed lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has proposed using streets, sidewalks and parking for expanding outdoor dining ‘al fresco.’

“More than a million restaurant employees in California have been laid off or furloughed,” Mayor Liccardo said on a conference with reporters Friday afternoon.

The situation in San Jose’s downtown core is especially dire. According to San Jose Downtown Association, of the more than 1,600 businesses in the central business district, only 6 percent are fully open. Another 9 percent have reopened partially and the remaining 85 percent are shuttered and idle.

“We know that we’re going to have spacing requirements and we’re going to have fewer tables inside, so if we have fewer tables inside and we want these businesses to survive, then we’re going to have to go outside,” says Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association.

Reliant on takeout orders, restaurants across the Bay Area have struggled to stay in afloat as their business has plummeted 50 percent or more.

“I know there will be fears out there. And our goal is to make people safe,” says Diego Rodriguez, general manager of Rok Steakhouse, in North San Jose.

Rodriguez says before the outbreak, his fine dining restaurant had nearly three dozen employees. Now, he struggles to find work for nine employees.

But the largely unanswered question remains, ‘What is the public’s appetite for dine-in service when the virus is still circulating and there’s vaccine in sight?’

“I’ve heard people in their 60s, 70s and older say they’re wary of going into a restaurant. But for the most part, people in my age group are fired up and looking to get back out,” says Dan Reid as he grabbed a takeout order from Rok Steakhouse.

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