SJ's 'Dine Downtown' returns, major push for restaurants since reopening as they face 'uphill climb'

The promotion for San Jose restaurants will last through July 18.
SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Downtown San Jose is slowly bouncing back after the state's reopening. It's no secret that restaurants can use a boost in business.

This week, 'Dine Downtown' returns. It's being described as the first real push for restaurants, after the state's reopening in mid-June. However, this year brings added importance.

"We didn't snap our fingers and things magically came back to life," Nate LeBlanc with San Jose Downtown Association (SJDA) told ABC7 News. "There's very much still an uphill climb for these hospitality businesses to try to get back to some sense of normalcy."

While eateries that survived the pandemic are back in business, LeBlanc pointed out, "The financial distress that they've gone through has perhaps been slightly eased, but that doesn't help them dig out of the hole that was made in the last fifteen months."

RELATED: People gather for live music in Downtown San Jose to end milestone week

At The Farmers Union, assistant manager Jeff Worrell explained, "We get a lot of people who are very- are fans of the Dine Downtown and will go to every restaurant and try it and see what they have."

The promotion, which kicked off on July 1 and will last through July 18, is packed with prix fixe menus, chef specials, and food and drink pairings- all decently priced.

At Mezcal Restaurant, they're serving up ceviche and margaritas. Co-owner Adolfo Gomez said the idea is to keep it casual.

RELATED: ABC7 explores what's changed since California COVID-19 restrictions lifted

"We want them to feel comfortable coming in. That's the goal," Gomez shared. "The experience, I think, will be there. The cuisine is there. We have great restaurants, great chefs in downtown. And we want to show them what we are and what we can do for them."

Gomez emphasized, it's been fifteen months too long.

"This is a good time right now. It's a good moment to try and bring that magic back," he added.

At The Shop by Chef Baca, co-owner Rodney Baca is bracing for customers to come with a level of anxiety. Still, he said the annual promotion really puts the power in peoples' hands.

RELATED: San Jose extends 'Al Fresco' program, outdoor dining initiative was set to expire this week

"Maybe some that have been a little scared to leave the house," he told ABC7 News. "Maybe some that are going back in the offices and are like, 'You know what, now there's this opportunity- this little thing going on that we can come try and new place.'"

The timing makes Dine Downtown a lifeline of sorts, as the areas comeback story continues.

"For us to have that little push and to have people- not just in San Jose, but Santa Clara County- come experience how wonderful Downtown is... and can be... They're the start of it," he shared.

There are nearly thirty restaurants participating in the Dine Downtown program.

For more information on who's participating and for detailed menus, click here.

Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.