Supporters of a downtown restaurant are decrying the Gilroy City Council’s December decision to not extend the business’ permit for an outdoor dining area.
Station 55 Seafood and Mexican Cocina’s “parklet,” a barricaded seating area that extends into parking spots on Fifth Street, was constructed in 2020 at a cost of more than $30,000, supporters say, after the council approved a temporary program that would allow businesses to set up parklets to serve guests outdoors in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The program was extended twice, and expired at the end of May. In August, the council agreed to extend Station 55’s parklet through Dec. 31.
But on Dec. 11, a split council elected not to extend the parklet, as city officials are in the midst of creating a set of rules for outdoor dining areas in public parking spaces. At that meeting, the council directed city staff to conduct a survey of downtown eating and drinking establishments and building owners to gauge their interest in constructing a parklet at their expense.
On Jan. 2, supporters staged a rally outside of Station 55 calling on the council to reverse its decision, while questioning why it is not also focusing on the parklet in front of Tempo Kitchen & Bar a half-block away on Monterey Street. That parklet was approved in 2017 under a different program when another business occupied the spot.
Ten people spoke in support of Station 55 during the council’s Jan. 8 meeting.
Station 55 owner Teo Castillo urged the council to revisit the parklet.
“It is something very important for us,” she said in Spanish, adding that the restaurant has struggled to recover from the pandemic. “We have tried our best by following all the standards that have been asked of us.”
Gilroy resident Evelyn Hudson said it was unfair that the council is allowing one parklet over another.
“Asking her to tear it down while you guys decide whether or not you want to implement a parklet program is unfair, because she already put up that money,” she said. “You are asking her to do it a second time. She did it during one of the worst times in our recent history.”
Sammy Trujillo said he was disappointed the council voted against the parklet, only four months after it voted to extend it.
“We need a council that promotes businesses and (does) not hurt businesses,” he said.
Others speaking in favor of the parklet noted that downtown Gilroy has few options to dine outside, which is important for those concerned about catching Covid-19 in crowded indoor spaces.
Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz, who in December was one of three councilmembers that was in favor of extending the parklet, asked the council to add the issue to an upcoming meeting’s agenda.
Mayor Marie Blankley said the survey of downtown business owners and further discussion of parklets is already scheduled for the council’s next meeting on Jan. 22.
Armendariz said she was concerned that would be too late for Station 55, as the business has already received a notice from the city to demolish its parklet.
City Administrator Jimmy Forbis said Station 55 was given a 10-day notice on Jan. 2 to tear down the parklet. If it failed to do so, it will be given another 30-day notice before the city demolishes it, moving the date to mid-February.