SACRAMENTO, Calif. — R Street is once again open to traffic despite Al Fresco dining becoming a permanent addition to Sacramento.
Sacramento's Al Fresco Dining Program was made permanent in July. The approach to outdoor dining originally came about after businesses were forced to find creative solutions to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns.
R Street was one of the many locations that opted to convert their sidewalks and parking spots into outdoor dining structures, which also closed a portion of the roadway.
In a series of tweets, Councilmember Katie Valenzuela said that the decision to reopen the closures at Capitol and R Street were decided by the businesses "who have decided to reopen the streets since they feel that the closures were negatively impacting some customers."
Wesley Fagundes, an account manager with MMS Strategies representing the R Street Partnership, said the decision was due to a change in the new Al Fresco program that became effective on Aug. 1.
"Council’s action in June included that street closures (only street closures for outdoor dining) must reopen within 30 days.... This meant that starting August 1st, costs incurred, and fees associated with our street closure would suddenly need to be paid for by the businesses, and R Street Partnership," Fagundes said.
Ultimately, the partnership said the fees, damaged bollards and weather-damaged rentals meant keeping R Street closed 24/7 wouldn't be sustainable.
"While we understand that the communal draw of the street closure will be missed, we look forward to creating more permanent space for our district and are working with city staff on creating a grant program to help off-set some of the construction costs for parklets and minimize the impacts to our member’s," Fagundes said.
In her tweet, Valenzuela said the City is redesigning a program for street closures and parklets to make things easier and has also put $2 million into the program to help offset expenses.
"I’m really hopeful that businesses will reevaluate these installations as that program gets rolling," Valenzuela said on Twitter.
Deanthony, who declined to provide his last name, said he prefers having the roadway open, noting that the closure reminded him of the lockdowns and that he's generally starting to see people passing through the area more.
“I would say I like it better open, because you can come out and enjoy yourself,” Deanthony said.
A full statement from the City of Sacramento regarding the issue can be found below.
"The Al Fresco Dining Program was made permanent at the June 21 City Council meeting and went into effect July 1. The use of parking spaces and sidewalks as dining structures, including street closures, were temporary measures put into place during the pandemic.
Under the permanent program, owners can build formal patios in the public right-of-way that are sustained through engineered layouts, customizable design options and a streamlined permitting process. The City is currently asking interested restaurant owners to submit an initial interest form to start the permit process for the permanent Al Fresco Dining Program. The form is available online on the City’s website here. Owners are encouraged to submit the interest form as soon as possible."