Government / Politics

San Juan Bautista looks to reopen parts of city

Working in accord with state rules, City Council discusses expanding outdoor dining, waiving business license fees, and orders the post office lobby open 24/7.

At its May 12 meeting, the San Juan Bautista City Council discussed reopening portions of the city as part of the state’s recovery roadmap. In the coming weeks, the city plans to partially open City Hall, use Third Street as an outdoor dining area for local restaurants, and forego late business license fees.

The city’s reopening goals align with those of San Benito County, which submitted a variance application to the state on May 12 that would allow the county to move through Stage Two of the state’s Resilience Roadmap at a faster pace. Businesses such as destination retail, dine-in restaurants, and schools with modifications will be allowed to operate in the latter half of Stage Two.

As of May 13, the state has approved an expanded Stage Two for 16 counties, including San Benito County. 

San Juan Bautista City Manager Don Reynolds said City Hall would be open half days starting June 1. He also said that at a May 13 roundtable, the city will discuss the idea of closing parts of Third Street to give local restaurants more outdoor seating capacity that adheres to social distancing practices.

While council members voiced support for the outdoor dining idea, Councilman Dan De Vries said he would support whatever decision comes from the business roundtable. Councilman Cesar Flores said Third Street should be closed on at least the weekends to increase seating capacity, while Councilman John Freeman said he saw it as an opportunity for San Juan Bautista to provide a European-type atmosphere.

“San Juan could be like a European city,” Freeman said. “Kind of have a large plaza in the middle of the commercial part of the town where people can really enjoy themselves. Have a nice dinner [and] be six feet apart.”

At the meeting, Reynolds recommended waiving late license fees for businesses that are unable to pay. He said the city has received about $18,000 in license fees this year, and expects between $7,000-10,000 in June.

At previous council meetings, a member of the public suggested that the city should waive business license fees to help local brick and mortar merchants during the pandemic. Reynolds said at the last meeting that it was difficult for him to support the idea because it would be a significant revenue loss to the general fund. In response to expected revenue losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, San Juan is making cuts that eliminate staff positions and reduce service contracts.

Council members also directed staff to open the post office lobby 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In response to the pandemic, the lobby has been open 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and closed on Sundays.

Freeman said it’s difficult for those who commute out of the county to make it back in time to pick up their mail. 

“If they had mail delivery to our houses that would be different,” he said. “Then we can say, ‘oh yeah, close the PO boxes,’ but we don’t have mail delivery.”

 

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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.