DANVILLE (CBS SF) — Closing down the main street to allow for outdoor dining has been a popular idea in many smaller Bay Area cities. But in some cases, the closures are hurting businesses.
The Town of Danville scaled back its downtown closure starting on Friday. Instead of closing three blocks of Hartz Avenue to car traffic, they are only shutting down one block, from Diablo Road to Prospect Avenue on weekends.
Businesses initially thought the street closure would drive up foot traffic. But they found out the closure actually kept customers away.
Carla Ahern owns Bliss Danville. She said her store suffered big time during the weekend street closure in July compared to June.
“Probably a 30 to 50 percent decrease in our sales,” said Ahern.
“It really affected us, probably even more, up to 60 percent. We just had slow days,” said Maeve DeSoto at the J. Mclaughlin clothing store.
The business owners supported the closure, hoping people would shop after dining out. But it was a great idea that didn’t pan out. While many restaurants did well, other retailers suffered.
“A lot of our business is people drive by and they see the cute store with the porch. And they’re interested and want to come in. So if we lose that customer driving by, that’s not helping,” said DeSoto.
“People that were walking by, but we were walking by in the middle of the street. And so if you’re not walking on the sidewalk, it’s a little harder to convince someone to say ‘hey, let’s pop in there,’” said Ahern.
They reached out to Danville leaders and the town made adjustments quickly.
“Without a successful local economy, we’re not able to maintain the same quality of life in our community,” said Town Manager Joe Calabrigo.
They scaled the closure down to one block where most of the restaurants are located. For the other restaurants, they removed street parking to allow for tables.
“With the traffic coming by, I know customers feel a little safer when the street’s closed,” said Kathy Tang with Yo’s on Hartz Restaurant. While the street closure helped her business, Tang said she understood why the town had to reopen her block of Hartz Avenue.
As cities navigate in this new environment, those that close popular streets face growing criticism in some places. The owner of three Palo Alto businesses said he will circulate a petition this weekend to pressure Palo Alto to scale back its closure.
Back in Danville, the town manager said they want to help everyone survive and thrive.
“it’s a very fluid situation. We’ll evaluate this now for another couple of weeks. We’ll continue to stay in contact with all of those businesses,” said Calabrigo.