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Napa to maintain outdoor dining, downtown Main Street closure through February 2022

Downtown Napa restaurants who have set up tables on a one-block stretch of Main Street during the coronavirus pandemic will be able to continue their alfresco service through this year and into the next.

Temporary permits allowing eateries to offer outdoor service will stay in effect through Feb. 28, 2022, City Manager Steve Potter announced during the City Council meeting Tuesday night. The decision continues the emergency program Napa created in August, when it closed Main Street between Second and Third streets to create replacement dining areas after state orders shut down indoor dining and other business activities to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The extension of outdoor dining to the cusp of next spring will give Napa time to prepare its transition to post-pandemic rules, including whether and how to continue the Main Street closure and outdoor dining program. Maintaining open-air spaces to create safer distancing for patrons should hasten the recovery of businesses battered by closures and revenue losses, and allow more employees to be rehired faster, Potter told council members.

Business owners and council members threw their support behind Main Street's conversion into a dining and walking promenade soon after the street was cordoned off Aug. 7.

"The restaurants need the extra seating, and the community seems to love the look and feel of it," Craig Smith, executive director of the Downtown Napa Association, said after the program's first weekend.

Dining activity on the Main Street promenade has endured through a winter season that included another dining shutdown after a spike in coronavirus case over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays sent Napa County to the purple tier of California's four-level scale of viral spread. A falling infection rate has enabled the county to rise two steps to the orange level, allowing restaurants to reopen indoor dining areas at partial capacity.

Napa is not alone in the county in recently extending outdoor dining permits well into the next year. On April 6, the Yountville Town Council approved a continuation of temporary dining and retail permits on walkways, lawns and patios to the end of June 2022, even if businesses are cleared to return to full indoor capacity before then.

California officials have outlined the goal of a full economic reopening June 15, citing lower COVID-19 infection rates and a wide roll-out of vaccines.

Elsewhere in the county, St. Helena in late October created a downtown pop-up park by closing a stretch of Hunt Avenue to provide an outdoor dining area while COVID-19 restrictions barred restaurants from serving customers indoors. The city later removed the Hunt Avenue Hub and in March authorized a new parklet between Money Way and Oak Avenue.

You can reach Howard Yune at 530-763-2266 or hyune@napanews.com.

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