Popular San Jose dining program expands to 6-weeks during COVID-19 pandemic

The pandemic is pushing San Jose city leaders to reshape it's Dine Downtown program, spreading special offers across six weeks, instead of the usual ten days.

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Saturday, October 3, 2020
Popular SJ dining program expands during the COVID-19 pandemic
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The San Jose Downtown Association is bringing back its popular Dine Downtown program, but extending the schedule to six-weeks.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the South Bay, COVID-19 is forcing Downtown San Jose leaders to look for different ways to keep small businesses in business.

In an effort to Build a Better Bay Area, the San Jose Downtown Association (SJDA) is bringing back its popular Dine Downtown program, but extending the schedule to six-weeks.

Executive Director Scott Knies told ABC7 News, "You can see a glimmer of that energy coming back."

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While nowhere close to pre-pandemic crowds, Knies said there is hope for the city's core.

The pandemic is pushing his team to reshape it's Dine Downtown program, spreading special offers across six weeks, instead of the usual ten days.

"The past years of Dine Downtown have been really focused on fine dining, white tablecloth restaurants for about a week to 10-day period. And really focused on dinners," Knies explained. "But because of the pandemic, we have to rethink everything. For this year, we're stretching Dine Downtown to allow cafes, breakfast places. Basically, anyone who's open that is serving food."

ABC7 News found places that would normally be packed on a Friday night, nearly empty.

Knies pointed to COVID-19 impacts to the Downtown area.

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"You don't have anybody at the convention center, San Jose State is only partially open. There's nobody at the shark tank. There's hardly anybody in offices. The hotels are mostly empty," he continued.

Knies added, "Any sort of small shop that's still open is like a hero right now, with their grit and their resilience to hang on by their fingertips."

"It's very sad, and so many of our guests say it," Lauren Crowley, general manager at The Grill on the Alley told ABC7 News.

"To walk inside, use the restroom or check-in at the host and see a completely empty restaurant," she continued.

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It's a struggle Crowley understands is not specific to San Jose.

"It's definitely been difficult for us," she said. "We have been doing everything that we can to make the best of the situation."

Through the program, the hope is prix fixe menus, food pairings and chef specials will attract enough diners to get small businesses through this difficult time, a time when COVID-19 and poor air quality are keeping people at home.

"With it being in the fall, we're really able to highlight some fall fantastic. We're just going to do a butternut squash soup and a fall kale salad with roasted butternut squash," Crowley shared. "We're really excited to be able to highlight some really tasty things and even offer a pumpkin pie la mode martini that sounds really simple, and it is. It's delicious."

Another business taking part in offering Dine Downtown deals is Tiki Pete.

"It's very dead," CEO Pete Be told ABC7 News about the recent crowds. "We haven't seen a lot of consumers coming around."

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Be said, "We participate in Dine Downtown every year. It's a beautiful program. We think it's great for the economy, especially here for Downtown San Jose."

While the pandemic has been tough on business Be said the program is a welcome tool to keep his business afloat during this tough time.

"The unique part about COVID-19 is that it brought out the creativity from our chef and our bartenders," Be added. "So the good news is we're able to introduce a lot of new products and we can introduce our products to customers."

For the purpose of the Dine Downtown program, Be said, "We have a series of seafood and Hawaiian fusion that's available here. We also got some mean Tiki drinks as well."

The expanded program will last through Nov. 15.

For a full list of participating restaurants, coffee shops and more, click here.

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