Los Gatos’s downtown outdoor dining parklet to hit the streets in 2022

Hunam Kal, owner of Pizza Chicago d’Italia, said he is delighted that the temporary outdoor dining structure at his downtown Los Gatos restaurant will soon be replaced with a semi-permanent one.

“Many people like to sit outside,” Cal said. “Instead of being so temporary, it looks really unique and it’s a good idea to make sure everyone has a simple plan … and plans consistently through the downtown Los Gatos area.”

Cal is one of about 40 business owners planning to transition from temporary to semi-permanent outdoor dining structures in downtown Los Gatos this year.

In 2021, Los Gatos Town Council voted to replace the temporary structures semi-permanent, and allocated $680,000 from its US Rescue Plan grant to create a grant program To help cover part of the cost. The parklets are deemed semi-permanent, Los Gatos mayor Rob Rainey said, “because at some point in the future, we will need to rebuild the infrastructure on the roads, but we consider them permanent.”

The structures, which are projected to last for the next seven to 10 years, come as restaurants work to recover from nearly two years of unpredictable pandemic-era dining protocols.

The city received 42 parklet grant applications by the June 30 deadline, and economic vitality manager Monica Ren said about 36 to 38 parklets would be built of them.

“Some businesses have decided not to manufacture, while others are working on final logistics before moving forward, thus the final calculations remain fluid,” Ren said in an email.

The grant will cover 75% of the total construction cost, up to $40,000 per business. Ren said each business was awarded funds to build a basic parklet design and contract with a firm to subsidize the design and engineering fees.

“I have to say, I’m new to Los Gatos—we just opened our business in September—but they’ve been really easy to deal with,” said restaurant owner Cal. “Very informative; they make the whole process very, very clearly.”

Not all cities in the Bay Area voted to maintain the pandemic-era outdoor dining infrastructure. Cities such as Pleasanton and Palo Alto voted to end their programs to reopen roads to motorists.

San Jose, Sunnyvale and Mountain View voted to retain the al fresco structures in 2021 and are working through similar plans to make them permanent with the help of the COVID-19 Relief Fund.

Several building permits have already been issued, and Ren said construction is set to begin soon.

“As with all construction projects right now, the timeline is a bit unknown, given that the pandemic has created a high demand on the construction industry and material acquisition can be difficult right now,” Ren said. “The city expects to complete the project by the end of 2022 and looks forward to the time when businesses and customers have the ability to enjoy a collection of outdoor dining experiences in Los Gatos.”

One of the businesses that backed out from its Parklet plans was Loma Brewing Company. Partner and manager Dan Reneke said the city’s potential plans for the recently closed Gray Lane, which sits right in front of the business, made it a challenge to invest in a permanent structure.

“We are not on the main road; We are on a short road. …(it) seemed like even if we were potentially getting a grant and even if the city was going to help with some of the plans, we would probably still have to put in a bunch of money,” Reneke said.

“The fourth quarter for the restaurant wasn’t as good as we expected. … We weren’t expecting to spend $30,000 on something that wouldn’t potentially bring that much business to us,” he said.

Reinecke said the brewery had been trying to set up outdoor dining for the past five years with no luck.

“The outdoor dining is great; We live in one of the best climates in the country,” Reinecke said, adding that the city “streamlined the process which is great … I’m talking 2018.”

The city gave the restaurant a choice of three different parklet designs and two different finishes.

“Just with the feel and look of the city, it embellishes everything,” said Kal. “Instead of being so temporary, it looks really unique, and it’s a good idea to make sure everyone has a simple plan.”

Tony Loeffler, manager of The Palms, said the al fresco dining structures were a “positive thing” and helped generate the business city.