Flex Streets: Oakland allows sidewalk and parking space for businesses during COVID-19

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The city of Oakland is waiving fees and streamlining the permitting process allowing businesses to expand onto sidewalks and parking spaces all while complying with the Alameda County shelter- in-place order.

It's called the Flex Streets Initiative, that allows restaurants like Crogan's in Montclair to use larger portions of sidewalk and parking space for outdoor dining.

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Michael Williams owns Crogan's and created an outdoor dining space with caution tape that included the sidewalk and parking spaces in front of his restaurant. He said the city has been great during this permitting process.

"It's a life saver, like- you can't keep doing to-go's and make it," Williams said.

Williams said he plans to add fencing and another tent for his new outdoor space. He said the extra space is allowing him to keep everyone at a distance.

"This city is giving me an opportunity and I need to make sure I hold up my end of it," Williams said.

"This gives you a shot. And we're going to be doing this for....my guess is at least a year," Williams said.

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Diners we spoke to said they're happy to finally be eating outdoors.

Kim Cano said Friday marked her first day partaking in outdoor dining since the shelter-in-place orders.

"It's a nice relief, it's summer- after being sequestered since March 16th. It's really nice to be able to see friends," Cano said.

Owner of Perle Wine Bar, Marcus Garcia, said Friday marked the first night they reopened for outdoor dining.

"Tonight is special because it's the first time we're seating people sitting down. We were behind San Francisco and Contra Costa County so I think Alameda was the last to do this," Garcia said.

He said they were able to hold onto their staff and hold onto business with the help from the PPP loans.

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The city plans to implement the 'Flex Streets Initiative in phases, starting with sidewalk and parking lane areas and then eventually extending onto some streets and private parking lots.

Garcia said they will try and implement the changes outside to see how people respond to it.

"For the street we could put like wedding tents up and 250 pound barricades on either side and protect people while their dining out there but to give them more of an open feel," Garcia said.

The city developed the initiative to support business recovery. Diners we spoke to said they're eating out to support local restaurants. And when we asked if it feels weird to eat in a parking space, Montclair resident Denise Mapes said 'of course.'

"I mean 2020 is a wash. We're starting from scratch, this is ground zero for 2020- the new reality of what we're doing now," Mapes said.

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