By Devin Fehely

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — A blast of wintry weather this weekend is expected to test the Bay Area’s appetite for outdoor dining as many San Jose restaurants struggle with pandemic restrictions to eating inside.

“We figure between our cafes, our white-tablecloth restaurants and our other eateries we had 225 in downtown alone. And less than half of them are open at this time,” said Scott Knies, Executive Director of the San Jose Downtown Association.

Knies told KPIX that downtown restaurants and businesses will have to adapt their outdoor setups to survive the winter, adding tents, heat lamps and other equipment.

“We’re thinking that we’re going to toughen up our South Bay audiences, our Bay Area audiences, and they’re going to get used to and enjoy outdoor dining,” explained Knies.

In the summer, outdoor dining was a lifeline for struggling businesses, allowing them to stay afloat while they adapted to public health orders. But the winter –with cooler temperatures, wind and rain — will pose yet another challenge.

“Our busiest times are fair weather. You know in the back of our minds, we’re hoping for a mild winter. Even the threat of rain hits our business 30 percent in a normal year,” said Assistant General Manager for San Pedro Square Chris Arkley.

The once vibrant entertainment center with its mix of restaurants and bars was largely empty on Friday afternoon. Arkley said they are planning to add tents and heat lamps because many customers actually prefer outdoor seating because of lingering concerns about the increased COVID-19 risk of dining indoors.

“If you have a favorite restaurant or coffee shop, I highly suggest — whether it’s cold or not — throw that jacket on and get out here and support them. So that when this does pass, they’re still here,” said Drew Sanchez, a customer and local businessman.

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