SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — San Jose has joined cities around the Bay Area in implementing a “safe streets” program to give people and businesses room to spread out.

Just after sunrise, crews began shutting down San Pedro Street between Santa Clara and St. John streets, placing concrete barriers in the roadway to block vehicle traffic.

The city calls it an Al Fresco Dining Street Closure, which restaurants have been hungering for and talking about for months.

“You know it takes a Herculean effort between all the agencies and groups that have to pull this together; the city, the public safety, all those departments,” said Autumn Young Interim Managing Director at San Jose Downtown Association. “And the permit process, which normally takes a really long time has been truncated. So, we’re pretty rapid for our world.”

San Pedro Street has become one of the city’s go-to spots for large public special events, but now it will be closed to vehicle traffic on a semi-permanent basis, at least until September, opening up nearly a quarter-mile stretch of downtown for restaurant customers to socially distance.

Earlier this year, both Hayward and Oakland shut down their streets as well for outdoor dining. In San Jose, this is the first-of-its-kind pilot program, and city officials hope to work out the kinks before expanding to other parts of the city.

“It’s also an opportunity to prototype for long-term,” said Young. “What does this mean for next summer and being able to provide this opportunity.”

At Voyage Craft Coffee, they only have room for three tables on the sidewalk, but with the expansion could easily triple or quadruple that amount and boost business.

“Yeah, I think it is a good idea,” said Gaia Collar of Voyager Cafe Coffee. “Especially because there’s a lot of eateries around as well. And they can come and sit here.”

One resident said he’s going to wait a few weeks before trying it, if at all.

“I think it’s still high risk,” said resident Will McAdoo. “Even though you can do this under the order, there’s a lot of things we can do, I personally wouldn’t take the risk to eat outside.”

Another resident who eats out three to four times a week said she understands why people might be nervous about dining outside.

“I think some people are really afraid of getting sick and that’s very valid reason,” said resident Corinne Mullins. “I have a lot of friends who’ve gotten very, very sick from this. It’s completely legitimate to be worried. Just wear a mask, wash your hands. If you don’t know people, don’t go near them.”

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