SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Over the past month, Santa Barbara’s Westside neighborhood has been hosting a street closure to help revive the economy throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Weekends on the Westside has taken place on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. till sunset.
The area between Sola Street and Micheltorena Street is closed to traffic.
After seeing the surge in activity throughout downtown Santa Barbara’s multi-block closure, community leaders from the Santa Barbara Hispanic Chamber of Commerce created a workable plan for the Westside.
“The whole idea here is to support the community and have the community support the businesses,” Hispanic Chamber co-president Miguel Avila said.
Many have described the Westside neighborhood as resilient over the years.
However, the COVID-19 crisis has impacted some of the city's smallest businesses hard.
“These are hard times with unemployment out there,” El Zarape owner Raul Gil said. “Some people are beginning to cook at home and not come out as much.”
“With everything that’s happening right now, the businesses are kind of down,” San Andres Appliance Repair owner Martin Bañuelos said. “We’re trying to bring things up.”
Whether they were a restaurant or retail vendor, businesses utilized the street for tables and the sale of goods.
Despite a diverse mix of food and items being sold, the foot traffic has been relatively quiet.
“It’s been pretty slow for the last three weeks,” Bañuelos said. “Still kind of questioning everyone if this is worth doing or not.”
While organizers aim to attract customers towards these mom-and-pop shops, they hope to comply with the county health department’s guidelines by avoiding large gatherings.
“We’re trying to scale it down so that we don’t have a sense of a festival where people can just come out, sit and congregate,” Hispanic Chamber co-president Jacqueline Inda said. “Instead, it’s more like going shopping.”
Throughout the day, hundreds of masks were handed out while an emphasis was placed on ensuring public safety.
“Our goal really is to help these businesses continue to stay open,” Inda said. “Follow the guidelines but be able to have their merchandise outside.”
“We are here and we are open for business,” Gil concluded. “Still taking all precautions and making sure that we are COVID-19 compliant.”
Organizers hope to continue this weekend event through at least Labor Day.