The small parks that many businesses built to accommodate al fresco dining during the pandemic are now controversial.
Street patios in front of several restaurants in the area are a lifeline for some business owners, but restrictions will soon be imposed in Palo Alto.
Rickey Fleming of the Osteria restaurant in downtown Palo Alto said ‘we can’t predict what the business would have done without these little parks.
Nancy Coupal, owner of Coupa Cafe, agrees.
“They were totally adrenaline. I mean, they totally helped us through COVID,” she said.
The small park is so popular at Coupa Cafe that it stretches out in front of the store next door, and that’s where the controversy lies.
Merchants have been complaining that this is hurting their business.
So starting next June, business owners like Coupal will need to get permission from the business next door if they extend a small park in front of their store.
Coupal said her neighbors have refused, so she will have to downsize her small park.
“Outdoor dining is here to stay,” Coupal said. “Any progressive city has it, and Palo Alto is starting to demand this … we’re going to be behind our neighbors.”
Other cities, like San Jose, have permanently closed streets to allow outdoor dining.
NBC Bay Area contacted Cafe Coupa’s neighbors but has not heard back.
Bianca Dejong, owner of Forest Spa Boutique, another neighbouring business, said she was hesitant about the small park at first. However, her perception changed when she noticed an increase in foot traffic into her store.
“It actually turned out pretty well because people were sitting on the street and they saw your business,” De Jong said. “It’s different when people drive by and they see your store for a split second.”