People dine on Main Street in Martinez, Calif. in an undated photo. (Bay City News staff)

The Sunnyvale City Council on Tuesday voted to continue its outdoor dining program on South Murphy Avenue that started during the pandemic.

The program allows restaurants to utilize private parking lots and the 100 block of South Murphy Avenue to seat guests and limit indoor congregation.

Connie Verceles, head of economic development in the city, said because state and local COVID-19 restrictions like mask wearing are still in effect, it’s imperative that the program continue.

“Right now about 35 businesses are currently providing outdoor dining under this program. And from what we see in the data that we’ve gathered is the program’s been working well,” Verceles said.

She said the city has received very little complaints and when complaints were addressed with businesses, they were remedied quickly.

The program was adopted by the city on July 27 of this year and was set to expire at the end of 2021. With the Tuesday vote, the outdoor dining program can go on until Sept. 30, 2022.

Councilmember Alysa Cisneros said restricting vehicle access to South Murphy Avenue created a much more vibrant downtown that she and residents have really enjoyed.

“When I talk to constituents this has to be the number one thing people want to talk to me about,” Cisneros said. “Them just expressing to me how much more time they spend there, how much they enjoy bringing their families there.”

She also said it has made the downtown area a destination spot for many people outside of the city as well.

“I hear a lot from other people from other cities say how much they really love coming to our downtown, that we have really excellent beautiful trees and this great outdoor dining experience that they enjoy and actively come to,” Cisneros said.

The outdoor dining program also got praise from the Sunnyvale Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Dawn Maher, who said it has and will continue to have a “significant positive business impact,” and maintain the composition of the community.

City council members also directed staff to explore restricting vehicle access to other parts of Murphy Avenue if there are businesses there that could also benefit.