Thousands turned out for downtown Pleasanton's grand reopening event on Friday, which saw restaurants and retail stores turn Main Street into an open space dining and shopping area.
Initiated in response to Alameda County lifting some restrictions on its shelter-in-place order to now allow limited outdoor dining, Friday's reopening closed Main Street to vehicles in an effort to promote local businesses that have been harmed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"It's good to be out here and see a lot of familiar faces that I haven't seen out in a while," Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne said after a ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the occasion. "It's surely great to be a part of this kick off, not only for the downtown but for every restaurant and retailer in town. We need to support our local businesses, start eating out and buying things from our retailers. (Now) let's all have a great time tonight."
Originally proposed by the Pleasanton Downtown Association and signed off by city officials, closures included the length of Main Street from Bernal Avenue to Del Valle Parkway, with openings for cross/through traffic at St. John/Ray streets and Rose Avenue/Neal Street.
Scheduled to continue every weekend through Aug. 9, street closures will start at about 2 p.m. on Fridays and continue through about 10 p.m. Sundays -- operational from 4 p.m. Fridays to 8 p.m. Sundays, with two hours on either end for setup and breakdown.
Safety guidelines for residents roaming downtown generally match those set forth by the county, and mandate that patrons wear face coverings whenever they are not sitting at their table and maintain at least six feet of distance away from people outside of their group.
Businesses expressed excitement over the opening up of downtown, accompanied with touches of anxiety over the safety and feasibility of being able to continue hosting patrons in the city's streets.
"As long as the restaurants are all playing by the rules and the customer base is playing by the rules showing up with their masks, not moving about… I think things will work," Josh McKay of McKay's Taphouse and Beer Garden told the Weekly. "We're excited, a little anxious but we're running and hustling and making sure everything is sorted out and ready to go. I really hope we're creating a fun environment where people feel comfortable to chat."
"Our business model is really based off of the community and when everyone goes into the (shelter-in-place) we really lose our model but our community has supported us incredibly throughout," he added.
While McKay noted that he received a significant amount of interest in the community and was booked through the weekend, some local owners have noted that even with the influx of downtown visitors on the weekends, business still has not fully returned to pre-coronavirus levels.
Wendy Schulte, owner of Good-Common Sense Naturals, set up a streetside display stand to sell beauty supplies last Friday, which had garnered interest from passersby; however, Schulte noted that many residents probably still don't feel comfortable being out in public.
"I think that people aren't really sure (if it's safe to visit downtown)," she said. "I had some customers immediately... say 'I'll be there' so there are definitely some people who are excited, but I think the rest of the community that is not quite sure yet will need to hear more feedback that everything is safe, everything is clean and there are protocols set aside to make sure that they are comfortable."
For the diners and business owners who did turn out for the weekend reopening a feeling of excitement and a return to normalcy was on display, with numerous patrons stating they hope the city decides to close Main Street for shopping and dining all summer long.
"We came (to Alberto's Cantina) about a month ago, we ordered takeout and they let us wait for our takeout and we had a margarita but this is our first time sitting. It feels wonderful (to be back) especially to walk down Main Street, I think they should do it all summer every summer," said Pleasanton resident Joan Tangney.
As of Saturday -- the most recent day of recorded figures -- the Alameda County Public Health Department has reported 4,805 cases of coronavirus and 118 deaths throughout the county and the city of Berkeley since the outbreak began.
According to county health officials Friday saw the second highest day of reported coronavirus cases in Alameda County, with 104 new cases being documented -- the single largest day of reported cases occurred on May 29 when 106 cases were reported.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Sunday nationally the U.S. has recorded 2,248,029 coronavirus cases and 119,615 deaths.