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Glassell Street in the Orange Plaza Paseo, which originally closed in July, will remain closed to help restaurants remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic and heightened dining restrictions, a change that may become permanent after dining restrictions are lifted.
Editors’ Note: This dispatch is part of the Voice of OC Youth Media program, working with student journalists to cover public policy issues across Orange County. If you would like to submit your own student media project related to Orange County civics or if you have any response to this work, contact Digital Editor Sonya Quick at email@example.com.
The Orange City Council voted unanimously Dec. 8 to continue the closure of the 100 blocks of North and South Glassell Street until state or local restrictions end or by council direction. Some restaurant managers and workers expressed appreciation for the street closure, saying it helps business.
Mayor Mark Murphy said people have asked him to keep the street in the Paseo permanently closed.
“Right now we are staying focused on the issues in front of us, which is COVID-19 and the best ways to allow restaurants and businesses to continue when safe and when legal,” Murphy said in a phone interview. “We will address how long the Paseo [closure] will continue, but now, the plan is to leave it in place as long as there are restrictions on services because of the pandemic.”
The motion to continue the street closure passed despite the Dec. 5 regional stay-at-home order California health officials implemented for regions in which the intensive care units reach less than 15% availability. The order, intended to last three weeks, prohibits indoor and outdoor dining, and restaurants in the Paseo will not utilize the outdoor seating areas until after the stay-at-home order is lifted.
“I think it’s time that governments get out of the way of local businesses,” Mayor pro tem Michael Alvarez said during the Dec. 8 meeting. “They are in survival mode… It’s an extraordinary time, and I think we need to pull back and try to survive this extraordinary time. We have to do that in order to help everyone in our city.”
Some restaurant managers and workers in the closed area of Glassell Street said they’re dependent on the outdoor eating areas.
“We are very grateful that the city was able to [close the street] for us,” Taylor Bagley, the general manager of Smoqued California BBQ, a restaurant in the Paseo, said in a phone interview. “Since the street is shut down, we have enough space to [dine outside safely].”
John Samy, a worker at Thai Towne Eatery, another restaurant in the Paseo, described the difficulty of operating a restaurant during the pandemic.
“We have to comply with the order,” Samy said in a phone interview. “There’s nothing else we can do… We’re hanging in there. Luckily, we have a lot of support from our local customers.”
Murphy said the City Council will reevaluate continued closure of the Paseo after dining restrictions are lifted.