After obtaining support from local businesses, San Juan Bautista is considering a plan to use Third Street as an outdoor dining area in an effort to increase seating capacity while adhering to social distancing guidance from the state.
Earlier this week, San Benito County joined over a dozen other counties to be granted permission by the California Department of Public Health to move through Stage Two of the state’s Resilience Roadmap at a faster pace, given the county’s relatively low COVID-19 case numbers in the past 14 days. This allows the county to open up additional types of businesses including dine-in restaurants and car washes.
As of May 15, there have been 60 confirmed COVID-19 cases in San Benito County since February. Five cases are active, 53 have recovered and two have died from the virus.
While San Juan Bautista initially considered closing Third Street entirely to allow local businesses to use the space, City Manager Don Reynolds said plans shifted after a May 13 roundtable with local businesses. The idea now is to make Third Street a single, one-way lane and allow commercial businesses to use the extra space.
According to a preliminary map, the city would open 12 feet on either side of Third Street to merchants and have the one-way lane run from Franklin Street to Muckelemi Street.
The city continued the conversation at its May 15 remote business town hall. Councilwoman Leslie Jordan said there were opportunities to have parking where there are no businesses.
“Instead of having an empty space there, we can have it available for merchants to use for pickups and deliveries, for their customers or for folks who live on Third Street to still retain parking,” Jordan said.
Jordan said another aspect the city must consider is whether the design will be accessible for the Hollister Fire Department, which staffs the city’s Polk Street station, to travel in and out of the facility.
Reynolds also addressed opening public restrooms at the meeting. He said it’s a practical matter of how often they need to be cleaned in order to maintain them for public use.
“It’s a vigorous requirement on staff,” Reynolds said. “I’m not sure, I haven’t had a chance to explore that. It may be unlikely that we can maintain it on a regular basis, especially on the weekends.”
Another option is to rent portable restrooms and have the contractor be responsible for maintenance. Reynolds said that he would like to keep restrooms open as much as possible because there are still people walking around town exploring historical sites.
As the city continues to work with businesses, Mayor Mary Edge commended San Juan Bautista business owners for their collaboration and patience.
“This is exciting that we are doing what we’re doing, but we want all of our merchants to know that we want to help you as much as we possibly can,” Edge said. “Your feedback is very important to us. We’re going to try to do as much as we possibly can to help you, to get our town back again and get it reopened.”
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