Business & Real Estate

Congregating customers pose problems for businesses

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Town Crier File Photo
A group of car enthusiasts gathered in front of The Post restaurant on Main Street May 3 as they waited for their takeout, prompting some onlookers to question their social-distancing protocols. Another instances of onlookers objecting to social distancing, or lack thereof, occurred downtown over the Memorial Day weekend.

This article was updated on June 4 to correct the caption and text of the story to clarify that the social distancing police calls made downtown over Memorial Day did not involve the same diners who visited the Post on May 3.

Two calls to the Los Altos Police Department over Memorial Day weekend resulted in officers reminding the owners and patrons of the downtown Amandine lounge of the importance of social distancing.

The callers alleged that dozens of people congregating outside the businesses were failing to maintain appropriate space between one another, according to a May 23 police report. But the owner of the establishment said unaffiliated groups have been clogging their entrances as they gather in front.

Jean-Luc Kayigire, owner of Amandine, said his First Street bar is open for takeout food and cocktails, but people patronizing other businesses regularly use the outdoor seating on a small, fenced-in patio across from the entrance without permission from Amandine staff.

Police arrived at Amandine after someone contacted them claiming 30-40 people had gathered “at a bar in downtown next to Tin Pot (Creamery),” the police report stated, in violation of the county’s health order. Police advised Kayigire’s employees to warn customers to practice social distancing. The crowd was told to disperse, and Kayigire said he plans to post a sign on the patio to clarify that it is now off-limits.

Vickie Breslin, owner of The Post on Main Street, there were more people on the sidewalk and in the street than normal outside her restaurant when onlookers objected to a different gathering there earlier in the month. Breslin noted that on that date, May 3, when the cops stopped by everyone complied with the request to obey the shelter-in-place order.

Los Altos residents had posted pictures of the May 3 gathering on Nextdoor and alerted the Town Crier to their concern about a group eating outside of The Post. At the time, Breslin had explained that waiting visitors had to linger longer than usual for their food because only two chefs were on duty and many diners had arrived. In an email interview, Breslin said she relies on the space in front of her restaurant to accommodate customers during the lockdown.

“It is very sad, as the only way for businesses like mine or small retailers to survive is to get outdoor space, and the city is moving very slow on a plan for that,” Breslin said, referring to a proposal to temporarily close Main and State street to vehicles, set for discussion at the Los Altos City Council’s June 9 meeting. “The bottom line is these people are coming out and trying to support local small business, so that when we come out of this our town is not completely boarded up.”

Calls wane over time

As of the Town Crier’s Monday print deadline, the Los Altos Police Department had received 324 calls related to the county’s health orders. A majority of the calls concerned residential construction, landscaping or house cleaning, prior to the resumption of such activities in the revised county order.

Calls reporting people congregating near commercial businesses started before the county eased some restrictions. Approximately 14 of the calls reported groups of people standing together outside restaurant or retail spaces, or people inside the spaces not social distancing. A larger number of calls, roughly 48, were made by residents who reported observing people from different households socializing or playing sports, with or without masks or failing to maintain 6 feet of distance, in neighborhoods and at schools.

The calls have slowed as the lockdown stretches on, records show. At a recent meeting, Los Altos Police Chief Andy Galea confirmed that no citations or fines have been issued yet in the city.

County health officials are still urging residents to limit their essential trips, wear face coverings when required and recommended, keep at least 6 feet apart from others, wash their hands for 20 seconds and regularly sanitize high-touch surfaces.




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