LIVERMORE (KPIX) — Street closures in downtown Livermore were supposed to help businesses survive the pandemic but they ended up hurting many retailers. So, the city has decided to reopen First Street this weekend.

“(Business is) between 50 to 75% down on weekends,” said Sherri Swanson, owner of Main Street Designs, a boutique.

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Swanson hopes her business will return to normal now that customers can drive and park in front of her store.
“Younger people are more willing to come out and do outside dining and that is not really our customer. We cater to older clientele,” said Swanson.

Livermore shut down parts of First Street on previous weekends to encourage outdoor dining with the idea that people will shop after they eat. That idea didn’t pan out.

About 67 percent of the businesses surveyed by the city reported the street closure did not benefit them and many said it actually hurt them.

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“I think we’re finding balance and that’s when this weekend is about. Helping the restaurants, absolutely, but not hurting the other business services,” said Rachael Snedecor, executive director of Livermore Downtown, which represents downtown businesses.

The business association said reopening the street will not affect or change the number of seating. Restaurants will continue outdoor dining through the Flex Zone program. Last week, Danville scaled down its street closure from three blocks to just one block for the same reason.

Livermore Mayor John Marchand said people also did not take advantage of the closure to practice social distancing. Aside from reopening the street, city workers will start to enforce face covering, handing out tickets as a last resort.

“A couple of weeks ago, we were looking at about 50 percent compliance so we’ve added signage in the downtown. We’ve started handing masks so right now we’re at about 85 percent compliance, which I think is really, really good,” said Mayor Marchand. “But we need to get to 100 percent. It’s not about freedom, it’s not about liberty, it’s about looking after other people.”

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“Education, then a warning, and then give them a ticket,” said Livermore resident Rick Rodriguez, who supports the new enforcement efforts.