Diners are literally spilling onto Main Street to enjoy a meal or glass of wine, thanks to a temporary closure of the block between Second and Third streets in downtown.
The closure, which started on Aug. 7 and will continue for at least three weeks or possibly more, “is intended to help provide additional space for pedestrians to properly social distance, when visiting many of our local restaurants and Veterans Park,” said Jaina French, a spokeswoman for the city of Napa.
Mindy Robinson of Zuzu restaurant at 829 Main St., said that the street closure has benefited the business.
“It’s going great,” she said of the extra outdoor space. “We’re super happy about the city doing this.”
Robinson said due to all of the walking from the kitchen to the outdoor tables, she’d walked 13 miles last Saturday.
“It was insane how busy we were.”
It wasn’t much of a change to move dining into the street, said Robinson. The restaurant was already seating diners on the sidewalk. “We were already halfway there,” she said.
“The closure of Main Street, allowing restaurants to expand service onto the street, is a positive move,” said Craig Smith, executive director of the Downtown Napa Association.
“The restaurants need the extra seating, and the community seems to love the look and feel of it. The first weekend it was closed, the area was full of people” wearing masks, he said. “It’s a great solution.”
The City Council also backed the street closure, said French.
“That section on Main Street is really crowded,” said member Liz Alessio. In fact, “I call it the ‘naughty section,’” due to many people not wearing face coverings on that part of the block, she said.
Without the street closure, there’s simply not enough space for both outdoor dining and for people to be able to walk safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alessio noted.
“It makes a lot of sense to close down” that section of Main Street for dining and pedestrians, said Councilmember Mary Luros. Vehicles speeding through that area has been common, she noted. “It’s a real problem.”
“It made the most sense” to close the block, said City Manager Steve Potter.
In 2019, the city took out the parking lanes, flattened the arc of the pavement and added wider sidewalks for this very purpose, he said.
And during the COVID-19 pandemic, “There are quite a few restaurants in that area” that want to seat customers outside, Potter noted.
“To meet all of the health order requirements, we needed more space than just the sidewalk,” said Potter.
Closing down the street creates a zone where people can maintain 6 feet for social distancing and ADA requirements, he said.