The owner of Sonora Brewing Co. is questioning the future of his business after the city council on Monday night didn’t approve his request to continue closing Bradford Street on weekends for outdoor dining.
Thomas Silva, who opened the brewery last year, said he was “obviously not happy” after the council directed city staff to work with him on a weekend closure of a portion of South Green Street behind his business as opposed to Bradford Street.
“I honestly am contemplating closing because I’m so let down,” he said in an interview after the meeting.
The council voted 4-1 at its meeting on June 15 to approve a two-week trial run for Silva to close Bradford Street on Friday evenings and during business hours on Saturdays and Sundays.
Silva requested the closure to offset the loss of roughly half of the seating inside of his establishment due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Councilwoman Colette Such was opposed out of concern for safety due to the street’s significance as a potential evacuation route in case of emergency, while Councilman Jim Garaventa said he only voted in favor because they would revisit the issue after the trial period.
Such, Garventa and new Councilwoman Ann Segerstrom indicated they would not vote for extending the closure through the duration of the pandemic as requested by Silva, which led the council to instead opt for the portion of South Green Street behind his business.
Silva said that Bradford Street is better suited for outdoor dining and more visible than South Green Street, which he argued will help increase foot traffic to other downtown businesses.
The owner of a floral shop across from the brewery said the Bradford Street closure had increased foot traffic on the weekends.
“People will be sitting and looking at the county building (on South Green Street),” Silva said. “It’s not as appealing.”
The temporary weekend closure of Bradford Street was initially opposed by the city’s Fire Chief Aimee New, Police Chief Turu VanderWiel, and contract Engineer Jerry Fuccillo.
There were concerns about the closure slowing response times for emergency vehicles as one of the few two-way side streets along South Washington Street, though New and VanderWiel both said on Monday that it didn’t have a noticeable effect.
VanderWiel still said on Monday that he was opposed to the closure and would support closing almost any other side street in the city.
Several people commented on the request for extending closure, with most saying they were in favor. A few people said they were opposed to it largely for the same safety concerns expressed by Such.
Silva said he would likely work with the city to try out the closure of South Green Street, which the council will also revisit at its next meeting on July 20, but he feels like some on the council don’t understand the hardships that local businesses are facing.
“It’s not easy right now,” he said. “We’re getting scrutinized in every direction. I’m getting left with little to no options to survive.”
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 768-5175.