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Alameda shops take businesses to the streets amid pandemic

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ALAMEDA, Calif. (KRON) — The city of Alameda is supporting businesses and their efforts to continue operations outdoors.

The city’s commercial streets program kicked off last month. It’s designed to encourage social distancing.

Putting the finishing touches on the future of the business.

“Keeping it community, keeping it safe,” Sandy Russell said. “Those are the things we’re trying to do.”

In just one week — with help from her friends, and neighboring shop owners, Russell has successfully assembled a parklet outside of her restaurant and bar Fireside Lounge in Alameda.

“All the palettes, all the barrels — all of it were donated,” Russell said.

This week, the city of Alameda re-striped three blocks of Webster Street from Taylor to Lincoln avenues.

A result of the commercial streets program, reducing the roadway from four lanes to two.

Allowing traffic to still flow through, but also encourage businesses, like Fireside, to turn curbside parking spaces into parklets.

“The way that everybody’s spaced apart, it’s safe,” Edwina Phillips said. “It’s safer that way.”

Phillips owns Superhero Desserts next door to Fireside.

Until recently, she’s only been allowed to serve food through her window.

Now, the parklet gives people a chance to stick around at a safe distance.

Nearby parking spaces have also been blocked off for drive-thru and pick-up services.

“At first I was worried about the traffic on Webster, but this is wonderful,” Phillips said. “We’ve already seen it be full of people.”

Business owners say they have to get creative and adapt to these unique times.

Otherwise, their businesses may not survive.

In fact, other restaurants and shops have told me that their revenues have dropped 30 to 50-percent during the pandemic.

Russell said it’s been even worse.

“I can tell you from my own business, like 90-percent,” she said.

Russell is also president of the West Alameda Business Association.

In addition to the parklet, later this month she’ll feature Al Fresco Dining in her parking lot — with live music.

Her friend Ann Moore owns Back to Life Wellness Center one block down.

She can not take her business curbside, but has been inspired to offer massages and other therapies on her roof.

“It’s been a little hard so, I’m looking forward to the next step,” Moore said.

Tomatina Alameda is one of the first businesses to take advantage of the commercial streets program.

It kicked-off last month on Park street and Tomatina general manager Jennifer Strach says it’s been a success.

“Another thousand dollars a day over the last week since we opened this up on Friday,” Strach said.

Sandy says if all goes well, she’ll hopefully soon be in a position to rehire the nine employees she had to let go earlier this year because of the pandemic.

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