Mike and Raylene Gallardo were seated at a shaded table in front of Town & Country Cafe on Wednesday morning as server Shelley Garza delivered their breakfasts.
They were among the many Tracyites who were giving outdoor dining a trial run on West 10th Street this past week, and like everyone else I talked to over several days, they liked it.
“This is the first time we’ve done outdoor eating,” said Mike. “We heard about it online, and my wife said, ‘Hey, as long as we’re going to the post office, let’s check it out.’ We drove down and decided to get breakfast.”
Mike, a retired Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employee, said he and his wife, Raylene, an AT&T project manager, had dined inside Town & County before, but that was the first time they’d eaten in the restaurant’s expanded outside dining area.
“I think this is really good,” Mike said. “I like the idea of outside eating.”
Not surprisingly, I found outside eating was a universally popular one among the Tracyites seated at tables separated by concrete barriers from the single eastbound traffic lane on West 10th Street.
To do my “research,” I was with friends Tuesday evening at The Commons’ opening night of outdoor dining, at Town & Country the following morning, and at Bistro 135 that night.
Dino Margaros, executive director of the Tracy City Center Association, which partnered with the city of Tracy to put the barriers in place to protect the outdoor dining areas from one-way traffic on West 10th Street, reported he has found that the customer feedback has been positive.
“The city has gone above and beyond in helping get the restaurants in business,” he stressed. “It’s an experiment and we have to work out any problems before we think about making it permanent.”
Balancing the needs of the restaurants to provide attractive outside dining venues with the needs of retail businesses, especially those on the north side of West 10th Street, is one of the issues that has to be addressed, Dino added.
So far, hair salons, which are now permitted to serve clients outdoors only, don’t feel that will work out, Margaros said.
Down at the western end of block on which the barriers and one-way traffic are located, “the regulars” who gather for coffee each morning in front of the World Coffee shop reported that their lives are pretty much the same.
“We realize the restaurants need the outdoor dining to stay in business, but it doesn’t affect us here,” said C.J. Womack. “As long as I have a cup of coffee, I’m doing fine.”
One thing he did notice the other day was a couple of cars going the wrong way in the single eastbound lane between Central Avenue and B Street, “and there were two more the next day.”
Desiree Lim, who, with husband Alfonso, operates World Coffee, said she misses cars going west on 10th Street.
“People would drive up on 10th Street and park in front to get a cup of coffee on their way to work in the Bay Area. But they can’t anymore, and they have to find a new way to get here,” she said. “It’s cut my morning coffee business in half.”
Farther west on 10th Street, Bistro 135 was going full swing Wednesday evening in a compact dining area off a two-way street without a concrete barrier. It’s another possibility for the long haul, but so is completely closing off 10th Street between Central and B, as some people have suggested.
As Dino Margaros said, “It’s an experiment.”