SAN RAFAEL (KPIX) — The Fourth of July weekend is almost here and health departments across the Bay Area are asking people to stay home. It’s a hard ask as people are itching to break free from quarantine and dine out.

In San Rafael, Fourth Street was shut down for several blocks so restaurants could expand their dining rooms outdoors. Despite coronavirus concerns, a sizeable crowd showed up to dine al fresco Thursday evening.

“It’s such a breath of fresh air,” said Gray and Martha Dougherty. “Sitting in living room chairs in the middle of the street — how can you beat that? It feels amazing.”

Diners on Fourth Street could choose from dozens of restaurants.

“We are trying it out. We haven’t eaten out in three months,” said San Rafael resident Peter Stack.

The event is called “Dining Under the Lights” and it comes on the heels of a new warning from the Association of Bay Area Health Officials urging residents to stay home.

“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should or that it’s safe,” said Laine Hendricks, a public information officer for Marin County. “We are really asking people to resist the urge to travel.”

Diners agreed that safety is a concern but tables on Fourth Street were socially distanced and most patrons wore face coverings when they weren’t actually eating.

“I’ve been really concerned about the virus for sure,” said Susan Matross. “If it were crowded, I would take the food and go but I totally feel comfortable doing this.”

Business owners like Frantz Felix of Caribbean Spices said the boost in foot traffic helps him stay in business.

“I’m a fighter, I’m going to fight until the end to … stay open,” Felix said.

Marin County is bracing for a surge of visitors over the holiday weekend.

In the past, visitors have packed county beaches and parks.

San Rafael’s Dining Under the Lights is a weekly event and is expected to last through the summer, so long as restrictions are not tightened again.

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