Faced with repeated COVID-19 health order violations by a handful of downtown Danville establishments, and capped by an Oct. 17 fight within a section of Hartz Avenue closed to allow outdoor restaurant operation, the town of Danville will cancel the weekend closure of the street for the immediate future.
At a special meeting Tuesday morning, the Danville Town Council, along with Police Chief Allan Shields, said the weekends-only closure of Hartz Avenue between Diablo Road and Prospect Avenue that started in June ended beginning Oct. 24.
Shields and others said police and town staff had seen "gross violations" of, and gotten complaints about, a lack of social distancing and mask wearing among visitors, as well as alcohol being served separately from meals and live, amplified music, which are not allowed.
Shields said the businesses -- three or four have had repeated problems, he and others said -- have been talked to multiple times, and kept saying they would comply with the rules, only to revert to violating them again.
"We've appealed to all of our businesses ... to voluntarily comply with the health order," Town Manager Joe Calabrigo told the council Tuesday. He also said closing that one-block portion of Hartz Avenue has, at times, "created almost a Mardi Gras type of atmosphere" there.
Though Danville officials said they know the street closure benefits the various establishments along Hartz Avenue in the heart of Danville's downtown, Councilwoman Renee Morgan said the sort of revelry has prompted complaints to the town, forced repeated warnings by police and has gotten the attention of county health officials isn't what town officials are looking for during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has brought Danville unwanted attention recently for recording relatively high numbers for new COVID-19 cases -- 35 in the town over the past two weeks.
That Contra Costa County will, possibly Tuesday, enter the state's less-restrictive "orange tier" allowing businesses to host more people and provide more services makes doing everything possible to increase compliance that much more important, council members said.
Councilman Newell Arnerich stressed it is the bad actions of a few businesses that are forcing the actions that affect many.
"We have a few bad actors ... but we have a responsibility to protect the public, and the businesses that are doing a great job," Arnerich said.
Public safety, Councilman Robert Storer said, is the top priority.
"We have no other alternative but to leave the street open," Storer said.