A couple of years ago, for a couple of years running, the Playhouse District in downtown Pasadena threw an evening bash each summer in which the usual three lanes of one-way automotive speedway that is Green Street was closed to cars entirely in favor of a block-long table at which perhaps 100 people wined and dined al fresco.
Several local restaurants and the Monopole wine shop combined to cater the event with an eclectic menu. It was great fun to be sitting in the middle of the street all night.
Given the current crisis, and the uncertain way forward for both restaurants and their patrons, how about making that the norm every night of the year — with that old caveat, “rain cancels.”
And not on secondary-artery Green. It’s Colorado Boulevard that should be closed to automotive traffic — except for early-morning deliveries — throughout what is now called the Playhouse Village as well as all of Old Pasadena. Same thing for South Lake Avenue, although the planted median there both complicates matters and makes the landscaping nicer for a dinner party.
Same thing, for that matter, on Citrus Avenue in Old Covina, and Greenleaf Avenue in Uptown Whittier. Lord knows there are plenty of other streets to drive on. In these times in which a return to dining out — a huge segment of our economy, and our human culture — is going to involve the need for extreme social distancing you can’t do indoors, shut ‘em down, I say.
But I’ve been saying that for years about Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena. It’s a street for which there is no motor-vehicle reason other than once a year for a parade. And now I would add in Raymond Avenue from Green Street up to Walnut Avenue, a veritable Gourmet Ghetto.
Here in the pandemic, I am joined in my quixotic quest by an actual restaurateur, Robin Salzer of Robin’s Ribs. In a column first published in Pasadena Now — hi Andre! hey Jamie! — Robin suggests: “Close off Colorado Boulevard from Raymond to Pasadena Avenue permanently so the Old Pasadena restaurants on Colorado can increase their outdoor seating. All restaurants may have to reduce their inside seating by at least 50 percent due to possible new social-distancing guidelines. These restaurants in our city’s highest rent area could redefine the dining experience of Old Pasadena. It would be festive, well lit, aromatic and it would be a boon for the city, restaurants and retail stores. Traffic to and from Old Pasadena would continue west on Union Street and east on Green Street. There would still be access to the parking lots off both of these streets. Think back to the World Cup in 1994. The same streets were closed off for a week and it was an incredible experience for everyone. I have experienced closed off streets for dining in major cities like San Francisco, New York and Chicago and it works.”
Of course it works. Let’s stop thinking small — like maybe a few tables on the sidewalk. Restaurants have been financially devastated. Summer is coming. Think big, think fast, cut the red tape and make it happen. Pasadena City Council. Here’s an opportunity to innovate our way forward in the vastly different new normal.
Wednesday at random:
After two months with empty fairways and greens over its 36 holes, Brookside Golf Course re-opened Friday with new social-distancing rules and with some new absences: No rakes in the bunkers. No golf ball-washers. No pulling the pins for putting. Holes filled with foam to make it easier to pick up your ball after a sunken putt. So did I get out Friday evening after work for nine holes? That’s like asking if Tiger Woods has the fire in his belly. Absent us stompers, the course is in great shape. General Manager Scott Scozzola even had time to beautifully reshape the tough No. 12 green on the No. 2 course. Being a walker, I just wish we could go Scottish rather than letting a foursome take out four electric golf cars. Want to ride? Fine. Bring a doctor’s note … Columnist Joe Mathews hopes for a post-pandemic future in which the crazy quilt of 88 cities in Los Angeles County is more efficiently consolidated. He asks if we really need an El Monte and a South, a Covina and a West, a, dare we say it, Pasadena and a South? And why is it that those three surplus cities are all in the San Gabriel Valley, anyway? Surplus? Here comes the mail.
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This content was originally published here.