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The Field, with a view

Gaslamp is more fun with the street shut down

The Field parklet on Fifth Avenue, on a sunny afternoon with the road closed to traffic
The Field parklet on Fifth Avenue, on a sunny afternoon with the road closed to traffic

In the Gaslamp, Fifth Avenue is still closed to traffic five evenings a week, including most of the day Saturday and Sunday. This has been happening since August, part of a bid to keep restaurants in the area busy while their usual source of customers — the convention center — has been repurposed as shelter. First for the homeless, more recently for unaccompanied migrant children.

Place

Field Irish Pub and Restaurant

544 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

These days, the Gaslamp as we used to know it appears to be coming back to life. Live music is returning, nightclubs are reopening, and as a Saturday afternoon turned to evening, I saw large groups of young people cruising the blocks, looking for a party. And we were there for a party of sorts — a (mostly) fully vaccinated group, celebrating a spring Saturday by drinking Guinness at The Field Irish Pub.

Corned beef on rye

But to say it felt like old times isn’t quite right. Yes, I ordered a corned beef on rye. And yes, my Irish coffee had a shamrock of chocolate shavings laid into the top of its thick head of cream. However, while several customers were seated at tables and even bellied to the bar inside, enjoying the authentic pub-like interior, we ate and drank outside, seated within The Field’s curbside parklet, which sits on top of Fifth Avenue.

Irish coffee with a shamrock of chocolate

In some ways, the outdoor venue offers an improvement. It was a nice day, so we could sip our drinks in the sun, while wearing shades — not very Irish of us maybe, but definitely quite San Diego. With no car traffic creating noise or exhaust fumes, we were free to breathe easy and had a wide-open view to people watch.

Of course, that means people are free to watch you back. One man, visibly dealing with mental health issues, threatened to accost members of our party. Another approached me where I sat to ask for money.

There are still plenty of boarded-up windows around the Gaslamp: some reflecting businesses that shuttered during the pandemic, others that never took down the plywood mounted in response to last summer’s Black Lives Matters actions (At least we know Do the Right Thing made some kind of lasting impact, huh?).

None of this was enough to ruin our fun, but it speaks to a greater problem that remains in the quarter: whether you’re talking about tourists, workers, or local diners, there aren’t enough people visiting to fully reactivate the area.

The Field Irish Pub, often a destination for pub-loving tourists

Gaslamp closed off this street some days to keep people coming during Covid, but turning Fifth into a pedestrian way, permanently, might prove the best way to build the area back up now that we’re creeping toward the pandemic’s end. It’s never been fun to drive on this street, anyhow, and a pedestrian plaza might encourage storefronts here to become something more than a collection of night clubs, souvenir shops, and tourist-reliant restaurants.

Inside The Field, day drinkers can still pretend it's night.

Maybe it’s just a pipe dream. And maybe I just want to eat lamb shepherd’s pie by light of day. But if the most fun I’ve had in the Gaslamp in four years arose from a policy response to a global catastrophe, maybe the old status quo isn’t what we should hope to return

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The Field parklet on Fifth Avenue, on a sunny afternoon with the road closed to traffic
The Field parklet on Fifth Avenue, on a sunny afternoon with the road closed to traffic

In the Gaslamp, Fifth Avenue is still closed to traffic five evenings a week, including most of the day Saturday and Sunday. This has been happening since August, part of a bid to keep restaurants in the area busy while their usual source of customers — the convention center — has been repurposed as shelter. First for the homeless, more recently for unaccompanied migrant children.

Place

Field Irish Pub and Restaurant

544 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

These days, the Gaslamp as we used to know it appears to be coming back to life. Live music is returning, nightclubs are reopening, and as a Saturday afternoon turned to evening, I saw large groups of young people cruising the blocks, looking for a party. And we were there for a party of sorts — a (mostly) fully vaccinated group, celebrating a spring Saturday by drinking Guinness at The Field Irish Pub.

Corned beef on rye

But to say it felt like old times isn’t quite right. Yes, I ordered a corned beef on rye. And yes, my Irish coffee had a shamrock of chocolate shavings laid into the top of its thick head of cream. However, while several customers were seated at tables and even bellied to the bar inside, enjoying the authentic pub-like interior, we ate and drank outside, seated within The Field’s curbside parklet, which sits on top of Fifth Avenue.

Irish coffee with a shamrock of chocolate

In some ways, the outdoor venue offers an improvement. It was a nice day, so we could sip our drinks in the sun, while wearing shades — not very Irish of us maybe, but definitely quite San Diego. With no car traffic creating noise or exhaust fumes, we were free to breathe easy and had a wide-open view to people watch.

Of course, that means people are free to watch you back. One man, visibly dealing with mental health issues, threatened to accost members of our party. Another approached me where I sat to ask for money.

There are still plenty of boarded-up windows around the Gaslamp: some reflecting businesses that shuttered during the pandemic, others that never took down the plywood mounted in response to last summer’s Black Lives Matters actions (At least we know Do the Right Thing made some kind of lasting impact, huh?).

None of this was enough to ruin our fun, but it speaks to a greater problem that remains in the quarter: whether you’re talking about tourists, workers, or local diners, there aren’t enough people visiting to fully reactivate the area.

The Field Irish Pub, often a destination for pub-loving tourists

Gaslamp closed off this street some days to keep people coming during Covid, but turning Fifth into a pedestrian way, permanently, might prove the best way to build the area back up now that we’re creeping toward the pandemic’s end. It’s never been fun to drive on this street, anyhow, and a pedestrian plaza might encourage storefronts here to become something more than a collection of night clubs, souvenir shops, and tourist-reliant restaurants.

Inside The Field, day drinkers can still pretend it's night.

Maybe it’s just a pipe dream. And maybe I just want to eat lamb shepherd’s pie by light of day. But if the most fun I’ve had in the Gaslamp in four years arose from a policy response to a global catastrophe, maybe the old status quo isn’t what we should hope to return

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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