A portion of Main Street in Old Town Newhall could soon close around-the-clock for weeks to allow pedestrians only, as some businesses in the area turn to outdoor operations amid ever-changing coronavirus restrictions.
The closure would take place from Sixth Street to Market Street, and could stay in place for up to six weeks, according to Santa Clarita Mayor Pro Tem Bill Miranda, who has been advocating for the temporary blockage on behalf of businesses in the area.
Cars could be blocked off from the street as early as Friday — but planning is still underway, he added.
“We’ve been working on this for quite a while now. We want to give our restaurants an extended time so they can get back on their feet,” he said Tuesday. “This is projected. We don’t know what actually is going to be the final (decision) but right now it looks like we’ll be closing the street 24/7 for the next six weeks, starting Friday — barring any unforeseen circumstances.”
Several pending approvals from the fire and traffic departments remain before a final decision can be made, City Communications Manager Carrie Lujan said, adding the city is still talking with businesses in the area for feedback.
“(We’re) checking with all of the restaurants and businesses to make sure everyone’s on board, so nothing is final yet but we are hoping to get all those logistics in place and if it’s what the businesses want we’re more than happy to make it happen,” she said.
Closure of the street to facilitate outdoor dining could make a huge impact for restaurants in the area already struggling following monthslong stay-at-home orders, according to Cherie McGraham, owner of Smokehouse on Main.
“The loss is unbelievable because we’re having to jump through hoops for every little thing every two days, four days that the (Los Angeles County Department) of Public Health changes (health orders,” she said. “I think this’ll help our restaurants thrive, which will hopefully give us some kind of business during the week because they’ll see that we have dining and also bring business to others, not just restaurants.”
McGraham said Tuesday she had already started plans on how to barricade her perimeter for alcohol service on the street, as recently permitted under California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control’s regulatory relief for licensed establishments.
Other business owners had not yet made a decision on whether they would open for outdoor operations should it happen, such as Simon Mee, owner of Newhall Refinery.
“They’ve given us three weeks but we were barely making it before,” he said. “Honestly, I haven’t made a decision yet. You have got to recalculate if it makes sense financially. Let’s say you have to get mister fans and rent all this stuff. It’s not so easy as switching a switch on and off.”
Calls to businesses other than restaurants on that portion of Main Street were not returned Tuesday.
Main Street efforts come after the city’s new Eat Local program, which encourages residents to dine locally and allows restaurants in commercial centers to expand outdoor seating onto private sidewalks and private parking spaces.