MARTINEZ (CBS SF) — Starting next week, the city of Martinez will close parts of two downtown streets off to vehicle traffic on weekends, allowing restaurants to serve meals and retailers to display their wares on sidewalks and street space near their businesses.

It’s what the city calls its Downtown Martinez Temporary Outdoor Restaurant Seating/Retail Display Program. It is made possible by last
Friday’s updates to the Contra Costa County health order expanding the types of businesses that can operate during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The closures will affect five blocks of Main Street from Alhambra Avenue east to Court Street, and two blocks of Estudillo Street from Marina Vista south to Main Street (two blocks). The first closure is scheduled to begin June 18.

The street closures are a key component to the city’s “Small Business Economic Recovery Plan,” to help bring shoppers and diners back to
Martinez’s downtown.

It follows in the footsteps of other Bay Area cities, including San Francisco, Berkeley, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Livermore, Los Altos, Redwood City, San Carlos and San Mateo, in freeing up sidewalks, streets and other outdoor spaces to help enable social distancing. Walnut Creek is working on a similar plan as part of its “Walnut Creek Rebound” program to boost businesses.

The extra outdoor space is a key consideration in Martinez, where most downtown restaurants and retail businesses have small, relatively
cramped space. It will expand outside dining beyond the “flex-space” parking spaces for which some restaurants there already pay a premium.

The Martinez City Council first approved the closure plan on May 20, to take effect the following weekend. But the county health order didn’t allow for outdoor dining at that point, and the city held off on the street closure plan until the health order allowed the open-air dining and retail.

To participate, downtown businesses (including those not on Main or Estudillo streets) will have to complete a no-fee temporary permit (found at to use the sidewalk or parking spaces directly in front of their businesses.

The duration of closures beyond the initial long weekend will depend largely on how many businesses apply to take part, said Kara Klotchman, executive director of Main Street Martinez, a downtown business group helping develop the changes.