SJ turns to old world trend to boost business

(KGO)
January 8, 2013 6:38:49 PM PST
San Jose has long struggled to make its downtown a lively and happening place and city leaders are once again trying to make their city a little more user-friendly, more attractive as a place to visit, shop, and dine. One idea on the table is to literally put more tables on the sidewalks.

Chacho's is an award-winning urban Mexican restaurant in downtown San Jose, but the owner says something is missing outdoor dining. "Right now, parklets are the trend, the hot thing," Jorge Sanchez says. A limited number of those parklets and curb cafes can be found in downtown San Jose. Most were created by the city with redevelopment money.

The owner of Caffe Frascati was part of the original experiment and loves the European flair. "The plan was if it worked for us and worked for the other businesses on the street, then they would expand. But I think then the money ran out and the redevelopment agency went away. So, the thing kind of fizzled out," owner Roger Springall said.

In this post-redevelopment era, the city council is resurrecting the concept with the no-brainer approach or streamlining the permit process and having business owners pay for the streetscape improvements themselves. "Really, it's around the city getting out of the way and partnering more with the private sector and letting small businesses have the freedom to do what they do best which is serve their clients," councilman Sam Liccardo said.

Chacho's has architectural drawings ready to go and wants to create an outdoor atmosphere customers say they will enjoy. "Absolutely, especially in the summer when we're looking for places to have lunch. I think it's a great idea to have outdoor dining," said Susan Bishop who works downtown.

Managers at The Original Joe's say that for them, the hassle just isn't worth the results. "The weather is not going to be great every day and we would have to buy tables and other things to have outside seating," manager Chris Nicholls said.

Chacho's is committed. They expect a $25,000 investment to pay dividends. "We don't need just the sunlight to make a patio successful. We have heat lamps. We have lighting. We really anticipate this to bring up our revenue sales quite significantly," Sanchez said.

The city council is expected to approve a one-year pilot project that would authorize up to five businesses to move forward with plans for curbside cafes.


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