The state and county restrictions due to COVID-19 have forced some cities to scale back on their annual summer offerings and others to cancel them completely.
On July 21, the City of Santa Clara announced that because of social distancing guidelines in the latest County of Santa Clara Health & Safety Orders, the city would cancel the Summer Concerts in the Park and Street Dance. The annual free events usually draw large crowds and feature music and food vendors.
Sunnyvale’s Downtown Association is taking a different approach. It’s using the new space created by the recent closure of Murphy Avenue to car traffic to work within the county guidelines and provide some entertainment to diners.
“We’ve always done performances and events. There’s nothing even possible in line with what our normal activities would be, but I think [music is] just something that would be a little extra gift to the community,” said Michael Johnson, the Executive Director of the Sunnyvale Downtown Association.
The association has hired someone to play outdoor music on Wednesday and Thursday nights on Murphy Avenue. The person will be there from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. through the end of August to play music for outdoor diners.
“We were looking for something that would maybe stimulate a little extra business opportunity, but specifically to be designed to provide what one might call ambience or background music,” said Johnson. “A little something extra so you don’t hear plate chatter and overhear other people’s conversations…background music to just give a little bit of extra sense of normalcy to an evening out; having dinner on historic Murphy.”
Both Johnson and the City of Sunnyvale are adamant that this is only ambient music and nothing more.
“Anybody gets up and starts dancing, they just cut off the music,” said Johnson. “We’re not going to have anything that would violate or put anybody’s life or business at any kind of risk.”
Johnson says he is working to do more for the downtown restaurants and businesses that aren’t on Murphy Avenue and don’t currently have the benefit of a closed street. He has already worked with the city to designate parking on parts of Washington Avenue as curbside pickup only.
“A customer that doesn’t want to come in and sit out and eat or dine or to have that exposure can still come in and order from their favorite restaurant,” said Johnson. “Pull up into 15 different slots on the corner of Washington between Sunnyvale Avenue and Frances and just call the business…all [the slots are] numbered and they’re parking designated for pickup only.”
Johnson is hoping that he can work with the city to do more for downtown businesses in the coming weeks.