By Betty Yu

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — A car-free Valencia Street between 16th and 17th and between 18th and 19th energized a neighborhood hit hard by the pandemic.

“It makes complete sense to have certain streets shut down thorughout the city to allow for certain businesses to be able to social distance,” said Patrick Du of San Francisco.

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Several restaurants in the Mission are hoping the closed-off blocks will give them a much-needed boost.

“It almost feels like … a European feel, where everything is on the outside — dining and drinking and having a great time,” said Philip Angulo of San Francisco. “It includes families, kids, all those mothers and grandparents and all that good stuff.”

Bicyclists and pedestrians replaced car traffic Friday evening. Manny’s owner Manny Yekutiel pushed for the move as a Valencia Corridor Merchants Association board member.

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“Just from last night and tonight, there are restaurants that are having their best night ever already. West of Pecos had a wait since the first time since March last night,” said Yekutiel.

Most restaurants were fully occupied on Friday. A recent Yelp study found that San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward collectively saw around 370 restaurants close for good since early March. Across the country, the Bay Area had the third-highest number of business closures behind New York and Los Angeles.

“I think it’s just more attractive for people to come down, walk down the street. They feel safer,” said Etcetera wine bar owner Alexandra Gerteis.

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The car-free pilot program is expected to continue Thursday through Sunday evenings for three months.