By Katie Nielsen

SAN JOSE (KPIX) – A work out class in the middle of a plaza, a hair salon in the park, or maybe a restaurant in a parking garage are some of the ways San Jose is trying to utilize public places to help small businesses survive during the pandemic.

Wednesday, people outside were listening to the sweet sounds of “The Boys of Summer” under the warm glow of cafe lights. The cozy outdoor dining space was created in the parking lot behind Vin Santo on Lincoln Avenue.

“I’m just thankful that they have the opportunity to be able to open up and take in some revenue,” says Jeff Pettit, who was eating dinner with his friend Les at Vin Santo.

The same is happening across the street at 20twenty Cheese Bar, but instead of a parking lot, it’s parking spaces.

“You know what, it’s not so bad. I mean yes, you’ve got cars going by, they put some greenery out. You still kind of have the same food experience,” says Melissa Haugh who was enjoying dinner at 20twenty Cheese Bar.

The restaurant was able to utilize what used to be street parking to create an outdoor patio area for eight extra tables.

Public spaces are now being used to provide more outdoor space, which can be a lifeline for small businesses.

“We aren’t making a profit. This is a no-profit restaurant at this moment, but at least it’s something that lets us have a shot to survive,” says Steve Wymer who owns 20twenty Cheese Bar.

That’s why the city is now expanding the “Al Fresco” program. It started a few months ago and allowed businesses to expand outdoors onto sidewalks and street parking. Tuesday night, the city council approved the same plan for city-owned parks, parking lots, and plazas.

“We will use the vibrancy and diversity of our community if we lose these small businesses,” says San Jose City Council Member Dev Davis.

Through it all, 20twenty owner Steve Wymer hasn’t lost his sense of humor. He gestures toward a life-sized cardboard cutout of San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo – the cutout propped up on a chair like the cutouts at baseball stadiums – and laughs as he says, “The guy has been in there for months and still hasn’t paid his bill.”

There is an approval process for businesses that want to use city space to operate outdoors. All of the information is available on the City of San Jose’s website, www.sanjoseca.gov/home

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