Patio dining is coming to five downtown Fresno restaurants and breweries, with owners hoping the new seating option can help pull them out of the hole created by the COVID-19 shutdown.
The strong possibility that Fresno County businesses will fall back into the state’s most restrictive COVID tier next week makes the timing even more urgent.
Restaurants that reopened their dining rooms two weeks ago — though limited to 25% capacity — could find themselves limited to outdoor service once again after the state releases updated COVID metrics on Tuesday.
“I’m losing. I need help,” Michael Smith, owner of Kocky’s Bar and Grill said in recalling a conversation with Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias.
Parklets were the solution.
Kocky’s Getting Back in the Action
Smith said he’s lost 90% of his business because of the pandemic, closing down for six months.
Because of the pandemic, many downtown employees worked from home, cutting down Smith’s business.
Standing in front of a new parklet — a patio that extends beyond the sidewalk and into the street — Smith hopes the new outdoor dining area can help turn his business around.
“This is great for us. It’s something we’ve thought about, dreamt about, but never had. To see them all along downtown, it makes people a little bit more comfortable going and visiting restaurants,” Smith said. “This parklet is gonna help us revive that.”
Smith said people are realizing he’s open thanks to the parklet that is nearly complete at his restaurant located at 1231 Van Ness.
The parklet runs 32 feet by 8 feet. It is large enough for four tables or about 15 customers.
Five Entities Benefit
The latest $125,000 in grants expands on the parklet program that started in the Tower District. The money comes from the city’s share of federal CARES Act stimulus funding.
“We continue the efforts of putting as much money that we get from the federal government for relief of the pandemic directly out to the street with homeowners, renters, small businesses — because really it’s your money,” Arias said. “We’re trying to give it back to you as best as we can and make sure that as many of us get through this pandemic in the strongest position possible.”
Other downtown establishments receiving $25,000 parklet grants include Modernist Mixology, Zack’s Brewing Company, Fulton Street Coffee Roasters and Tioga Sequoia Brewery.
Parklets Transforming Businesses
Po Tsai, co-owner of Modernist Mixology, says the parklets will provide long-term benefits.
“The support they’re providing goes so much further. It goes into the winter, into the spring; and those adjustments are even larger as we look at seasons, because I think everyone’s kind of entrenching for the next six to nine months. And that’s what we have to do as businesses,” Tsai said.
Gail Zack, of Zack’s Brewing Company, says the CARES Act funds will help expand their outdoor facilities. Her restaurant has been limited to offering to-go orders because of the pandemic.
“It’s been a really, really hard time — challenging,” Zack said. “It’s going to look very gardeny, very outdoorsy. It’s definitely going to help with our capacity with getting people back in there.”
Downtown businesses have been resilient, Zack said.
“We all have to adapt and kind of change our our way of thinking and our way of doing things. But I know that we are strong, especially in the downtown community,” Zack said.
“We all stick together. We all look out for each other. We all help each other.”