Really, it's probably a good thing we didn't eat downtown. Just imagine the hell I'd be put through, the favoritism complaints, if I talked here about what restaurant we picked. I mean, what if I said that the best ramen shop in the East Bay, in my view, is on Main Street, or that her favorite store in all of Pleasanton is in downtown? Could you imagine?
Pleasanton's phased public reopening is progressing in lockstep with the rest of Alameda County, so the news March 9 meant indoor dining could return on a smaller scale, retail shops could expand customer capacity and fitness studios could restart inside -- among other key changes.
I have deep respect for the businesses and employees across the Tri-Valley who have worked so hard to remain in operation and adhere to fair rules and guidelines during this health pandemic.
It's been tough out there. It is tough still.
We need employers to be safe and thrive. We need employees to be safe and thrive. We need patrons to be safe and thrive. Always, and especially now during this persistent pandemic.
Here are my quick-hitting observations from our Friday evening stroll from Vic's All Star Kitchen down to the empty Pleasanton Hotel building and back, along both sides of Main Street and the major commercial blocks in either direction.
The crowd levels were strong -- but not overwhelming -- on that crisp and clear night, creating what I thought was a fairly comfortable environment on the whole, especially for someone who takes COVID spread prevention seriously like me.
It seemed as if many restaurants were having a good evening, longtime favorites and newer offerings alike, buoyed by the return of indoor tables to supplement popular outdoor dining and take-out. The few retail stores still open at that hour also all appeared to have customers.
Looked like many residents were out to "Shop Small-Support Local," as the Pleasanton Downtown Association promotes.
The vast majority of people walking the sidewalks were wearing face coverings. All of the restaurant and retail workers I saw wore masks. The vast majority of diners sitting at outside tables were not, regardless of whether they had food in front of them or drink in hand.
Plenty of people took advantage of the long-desired return of indoor dining. To my somewhat-trained eye (I did work one summer as an inventory counter, after all), many restaurants were following the 25% capacity limit inside. A couple were not.
I continue to be struck by how well-embraced the outdoor dining experience has been during the pandemic. Like so many Bay Area cities, block after block of downtown Pleasanton have canopies and tents temporarily replacing parking spaces to give restaurants more room for patrons outside.
Of course, I also can't help but think of the times in 2017, 2018 or 2019 when I saw a city staffer or resident promote the idea of adding parklets downtown or have the audacity to suggest a street be closed off to cars permanently in the future, only to be essentially shouted down. Surely no one saw this pandemic coming to boost that argument, but now I wonder if the tables in parking spots will be here to stay.
Speaking of new developments, work continues on the addition to the Bank of America building, due to be completed in late spring to house Zachary's Chicago Pizza. That's next to the Veterans Memorial Building, which with a prominent sign is helping VFW Post 6278 mark its 75th anniversary this month.
The Planning Commission, at a public workshop next Wednesday, will talk about initial plans for potentially tearing down Barone's restaurant on St. John Street and adding homes there and the next-door property.
Middle 8 owners say the new bar is close to opening on the south end of Main Street, and a Gilman Brewing Company taproom is coming fully online soon on the north side.
Pleasantly surprised by how few business vacancies there are despite the difficult conditions. Also have to wonder what kind of movement, if any, will there be to fill the open spots at the old Dean's Cafe and Cafe Main -- plus the newer two-story building that replaced Union Jack Pub.
Not business news, but also very exciting for downtown: The Pleasanton Library welcomed back indoor patrons this week. The Museum on Main is reopening its halls next Tuesday. Hopefully conditions will allow the Firehouse Arts Center to join soon.
After all, if the COVID-19 trends and vaccinations continue, the orange tier won't be too far away. Yellow and green too, for that matter.
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