SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — In-store retail and outdoor dining is now allowed in Santa Clara County, but many business owners said Friday that it is far from business as usual for them.

“That’s been the biggest challenge, as these restrictions went into place, how do we address them and manage them and still stay successful,” said Willow Glen’s Yuki Sushi owner Jennefer Koopman. “Then as they’re being lifted, what makes sense for us.”

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Koopman has been offering to-go meals and said business has been steady. But she was among other restaurant owners who said outdoor dining could do more harm to their bottom line than good.

“Unfortunately, we just don’t have enough space,” she said. “I would have to invest in canopies, the disinfecting, different protocols we’d have to put into place, I probably would have to staff somebody,” said Koopman.

She said it would mean bringing an employee back, but many have told her they would make more money receiving unemployment benefits than going back to work at the restaurant.

Koopman, like many, also doesn’t have an adjacent parking lot, property, or patio to set up outdoor seating. She said she could – maybe – fit two tables outside her door, which wouldn’t be profitable.

For now, Koopman said it makes sense for her to continue offering only to-go orders until indoor dining is allowed again.

Eduardo Orozco, who owns Puerto Azul down the street, is one of the lucky ones. His restaurant has an outdoor patio as well as front and back parking lots. Yet, he said, it’s still not enough.

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“It’s not enough, I can’t have nobody inside, so that’s the problem,” said Orozco.

Santa Clara County, which was once hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, is also now allowing cultural and religious gatherings of 25 people or less.

The loosening of restrictions had an obvious impact on at least the strip of restaurants and shops in Willow Glen. Cars lined the streets, people walked from shop to shop and many businesses that were once closed appeared to be open for at least curbside pickups.

Lana Vo, whose niece owns Boutique Dandelion in Willow Glen, opened the shop’s doors on the first day in-store retail shopping was allowed. The boutique was only open for one month before the shelter-in-place went into effect.

“People are excited to come in and feel the items and try things on,” Vo said.

San Jose resident Irma Cadruvi said she was so eager to go shopping once again that she went to the Gilroy Premium Outlets, only to find a handful of the nearly 200 shops were open. She said a security guard told her many companies are trying to configure their stores to abide by social distancing guidelines and weren’t ready to open on the first day the restrictions were loosened.

“I’ve been waiting for the moment for a long time,” Cadruvi said. “It feels good to walk in somewhere other than a grocery store.”

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